• Published 8th Jan 2020
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Golden Age of Apocalypse - Book III: Legacies - BlueBastard

Everything is finally ready for Sunset Shimmer to be crowned a ruling princess of Equestria, but not all is as it seems as the Covenant make their move and the history of Equestria itself is called into question as GAOA reaches its explosive end!

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Chapter 28 - Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Golden Age of Apocalypse

Chapter 28 - Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

For the second time in as many weeks, Nobility House was about to become the center of attention. What had been earlier a display of celebration of the Major Prep of Princess Sunset Shimmer now hosted a major issue of a different kind: the court-martial of Capt. Divine Right, commander of the Friendship Guard. If convicted, he would be removed from his position in the Guard and cashiered from the military. But it was worse than that: the plans were already ahoof to impeach the young prince and if that happened, it would completely and utterly destroy him – likely to the utter delight of many present, Black Cherry thought glumly.

For the past couple of days, she’d pored over musty old tomes of law and statecraft, trying to find a way to stop this farce of an event. So far, there had been no success but she’d managed to find ways to stall things, claiming the need to validate documents and ensure that certain portions of what was going on was accurate and legal. But now, all the legal excuses were exhausted and there was nothing to do but to go on, fortune or not.

“I’ve done all I could,” she said softly to herself.

“Indeed, you have,” Kibbitz said as he approached her. Once again, in his position as the Chancellor of Equestria, both he and Cherry would preside over this sham of a legal event. Fortunately, Kibbitz was able to use the advantage of his other position to prevent him from “interfering” with his protegée’s studios attempts to stop it. But now the event was about to occur, despite their best efforts. “And I am proud of you for having done all you could to prevent this…mockery of justice.”

“But it’s not enough, is it?” A frown crossed her face. “Prince Divine is still going to face court-martial and then impeachment and that’s because I couldn’t do anything to stop it.”

Kibbitz nodded his head sadly. “Unfortunately, that’s the truth,” he told her kindly. “Sometimes you do your best and you still fail. It’s a harsh lesson to learn, especially with everything that is going on, but we must remember to must never give up hope and always believe that the best outcome will come to hoof.”

“But how can you be so sure?” Cherry asked him, her voice a soft plea. “Even Her Majesty is backed up in a corner at this point!”

He nodded wisely. “Because I believe in her.”

As the grand chamber began to fill in, with both nobleponies and those VIPs invited as official observers, the milieu began to take on a volatile tone. There were some nobles who felt this was a sham, some who felt it was a waste of time but had no opinion on Prince Divine and some who felt that this time was a grand opportunity to strike a blow at the royals. Amongst the latter was Riven Oak, who had his designs on both the chance to lay the alicorns and their sycophants low while at the same time pushing himself out of Highfalutin’’s shadow as the only true balance against the Crown.

Of course, he thought to himself, eventually once we get rid of Celestia, I can start working myself up towards a loftier goal. Perhaps it is time that Equestria had a king? It has only had one queen, after all and then this princess who didn’t even have the strength to take her mother’s place. Maybe it is time for a stallion to take charge where mares could not.

His eyes briefly lit up in glee. King Riven Oak…has a nice ring to it.

“Well, my dear Marquis Moyle, it seems that we have quite the show today.” Riven turned to look at Forward Thought, Baron Peneia. While the baron was a well-known critic of the royal family, he was, in many ways, worse than Celestia: he was a republican, with the idea of returning to the old Æarthen government the earth ponies had during the Warring States era. His ridiculous idea had been bolstered even more by the fact that those damnable humans came from a world where most of the governments were republics and that had only bolstered Thought’s ideals even more. Thus, he made for an uneasy ally – one who could be reliably counted upon to denounce the Crown whenever possible, but definitely not one to count on once Riven made his final movement.

Deciding to eat his personal opinion of the fool once more, Riven gave Thought a charming smile and said coyly, “Why, whatever do you mean, my dear baron?”

Thought adjusted his glasses, pondering what to say next. “As you know all too well, not everypony supports the Royal Family and her cadet branches,” he began. “In truth, that is what ponies such as you and I are here for: to prevent not only the alicorns and the minor royals from turning this bastion of a nation into a dictatorship, but to one day hopefully allow democracy to flourish once more, as it did for the earth ponies of old.”

“Yes, I quite understand, my good baron,” Riven said, biting off a retort he’d very much wanted to fling at the pompous ass – he was pretty sure Forward probably had donkey blood somewhere in his ancestry, after all. “We have discussed this many a time before, but you sound vexed for some reason.”

“I am, I must admit,” Thought stated. “I have heard a horrific rumor, my friend, and I wish your opinion on it. It seems that these proceedings are not what they are meant to be. I agreed to them because Capt. Right has a significant standing amongst the military, as well as his princely title, but I’ve heard that some ponies may be trying to use this as a method by means of which to cause the downfall of the alicorns, especially in light of the impeachment charges against Princess Celestia.”

“Oh? And here I thought you to be a committed republican, my dear Thought.”

“Oh, I am!” he insisted. “But I am one for doing it through the will of the populace, not creating a vacuum through which the alicorns’ departure causes the potential for chaos and tyranny. You know as well as I that it seems that many of those of cardinal standing amongst the nobility have, in truth, an unwillingness for even authority. That some would use the sedevacantist situation to turn the realm into a cobweb threaded by greed and profit.”

Riven feigned shock. “No!”

“Yes, as hard as it is to believe, it is true. Their focus is not the good of the peoples, but instead the equal distribution of spoils such as a swarm of ragespiders fight over their prey. In this we must be cautious. I do not care for the affairs of the Crown, but neither would I want a monster to lord over us, either.”

“I agree, I certainly agree,” Riven said, and he meant it. Once he was king, he would be no monster – he would ensure that he would achieve godhood, instead. If somepony like that brat Sunset Shimmer could do it, it would be possible for anypony. “But for now, let us do our due diligence for the sake of our ponies and continue to be wary for the wrong influences.”

Thought, placated, nodded. “True, and I shall. Thank you, Riven, for being so committed to the right cause. History will remember you kindly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take my place.”

Riven nodded as the other stallion left. History will remember me, the marquis thought with malice. You, however, will be lucky if you even end up as a footnote in the annals.

As he was escorted into a private room to await his summons, Divine Right felt particularly alone at that moment. None were allowed in the room at the moment, not even his attorney, and so he was placed in a room that was filled with portraits of past nobles. Normally, this would just be an awaiting room where an individual would bide their time until their appointment with the appropriate noble. But in this situation, the pictures looked like they stared at him with the judgement, fair or not, that would be coming.

Finally, after a few minutes, the door opened again and Arrowswift came in. “Had to remind them that you are entitled to legal representation, and while they wouldn’t let our legal officer come in, they had to let your superior officer in.” She looked around the room. “Wow, this place is ostentatious. And I thought we military types with our ‘I Love Me’ walls were bad.”

Divine plopped into one of the plush chairs. “Look, I know what you’re going to say….” he began.

She chuckled. “And I knew you were going to say that. Look, Div, you know this is hydrashit, I know this is hydrashit, Shining knows it, everypony, including the ones doing this to you, knows it. You’re an upstanding kind of stallion and what happened could have happened to anypony in charge. They’re just looking at you because they think you’re the weak link in all this. But they are so, so very wrong.”

“You think?” he answered, his voice audibly containing frustration. “Swifty, I’ve given my whole life for the Guard. I could have been a pampered prince like Blueblood—”

Arrowswift shook her head and then quickly explained the morning’s news to his shock.

“I…I am having a hard time believing that,” Divine replied, “but I’ll take your word for it. In any case, I’m not the kind of pony my sister is. I don’t care about grabbing the limelight for power’s sake and never letting it go. I feel – as much as my aunt teases me about it – that it is my divine right to take care of our ponies. We became princes and princesses through less-than-sterling means, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to be worthy of the gifts and sobriquets we were given and allowed to retain by the alicorns.

“I…” He sighed. “I will help the common pony with every means at my disposal, even if it means I’m not a prince anymore or a captain or anything. Even if I’m a penniless beggar, I’ll still do everything I can, because that’s who and what I am. This is what my parents would have wanted me to be, and what Auntie Cellie expects of me. But more importantly, it’s what I expect of myself.

“So let them have their best shot at me. I won’t back down and I won’t run – I’m a Guard captain and a prince, no matter what. That is who I am, regardless of whatever I am called and that, as they say, is that.”

Finally, the moment came. All throughout Equestria, specially-tuned mirrors and crystals attuned themselves to a view within Nobility House. All over the world, those with more than just a passing interest in the affairs of the ponies stopped and watched as the third major event in as many days occurred in the far mountain capital, one that would be sure to shake the very foundations of all of Equus.

Knowing the eyes of the world was upon him and carrying the stave that held the flag of Equestria, Kibbitz once more approached the front and called out before the assembly, “HEAR YE, HEAR YE, THE COURT AND COUNCIL ARE NOW IN SESSION. ALL RISE BEFORE THE THRONES!” As “In Regnum Aeternum Solis” played, once more, the alicorns silently flowed into the hall, with all eyes now shifted to them. By now, the news of what the nobility had planned for Celestia had become public, and though none said it, all knew this was nothing more than a cruel dress rehearsal for what the greedborne faction of the nobility planned to do their own liegelady within a short time. Prince Divine Right would serve as a sacrificial guinea pig to make sure that the nobility would have their chance to destroy Celestia utterly.

The last note played and the assembly came to a seat once more, letting the theater of the moment play out. Knowing his part to play in the situation, Kibbitz bowed to his liegelady and the others with a formal flourish. The alicorns still had believers and allies in Nobility House and he was determined to let the world know he was one of them – he would not leave them standing alone.

Eyeing the crowd, Celestia knew what they did not: that the world would forever change soon. History was watching and history would record this moment. Not even those behind her, her fellow alicorns, knew what was to come. To use a phrase her daughter picked up in the human world, this would be “shock and awe warfare” – an action that would leave each mouth agape and in time, each soul to ponder how things had become like this.

She only hoped the right answer would unearth itself in time.

Looking at her oldest and dearest friend, Celestia leaned forward in her throne, ensuring her princessly crown remained on her head. She would never don her mother’s crown of queen, the breathtakingly beautiful velvet and platinum crown that sat, even still, on her throne, awaiting to be proffered once more and to serve its task as the headgear of the ruler of Equestria. Soon, that would change.

Looking at Kibbitz, she could see the concern in his eyes. He knew what was coming, but ever loyal to the last, he would do his duty. She adored him for that and hoped he would continue to do so once this was all done, for Equestria would need him more than ever.

Beginning with the practiced, formal tone she was so used to – and admittedly, long tired of – she began the ceremonial theatrics. “Has anypony come before Our Presence to speak, my good chancellor?” asked him, damn well knowing what the answer would be.

“I do, Your Majesty and Your Highnesses,” raising his head as he spoke to her. “A group of petitioners have come before the Crown, seeking justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.” A lie; there was no justice to be had and there was no petition but instead the petty actions of self-serving nobles, but formality was something that needed to be followed. “Shall I call them before this August Court?”

Celestia smiled. Time to let the walls come down.

To the surprise of nearly all in the room, Celestia did not follow the script, but instead looked at Kibbitz and said to him, “Not just yet, my good chancellor. We will have words with the assembly before us.”

The ponies in the crowd began to look at one another with confusion. None of them had expected those words and for many of them, it threw off their carefully-laid plans. Somehow the princess had discovered a method to counter whatever careful plans they had in motion and they would not – could not – let that stand.

Finally, one of them – likely a partisan stooge of Riven Oak’s – called out, “This is highly unusual, Your Majesty! How can—”


The roar of Celestia’s voice literally shook the building to its foundations and was enough to get the alicorns to look at each other in genuine surprise. The crowd turned away in shock, and when they looked back, they saw something they had never expected to see: Celestia was wreathed in her own solar fire, her mane burning with the very colors of the sun instead of its usual tone and her eyes had changed from lilac to a deep red. To some, it looked as if she’d become a solar version of Nightmare Moon, underscored by the contemptuous gaze she held at the nobility.

“I did not give you leave to speak,” she said to the speaker, “and that is extremely discourteous. But I should have expected as much.” As the marble tiles beneath her feet began to slowly warp and melt under the heat she unconsciously applied to her hoofs, she let the theatricality commence. “I had once thought this to be a noble and august assembly of ponies looking to work with laws and justice towards protecting the innocent and furthering friendship and harmony in the land so that all might prosper. But I was wrong – a rot has filled this chamber, and as each day goes, its toxic, pungent nature infects more and more, corrupting the laws of this land and turning servants and stewards of the populace into scrambling would-be warlords no better than the griffon reeves willing to kill each other for an inch more of land and an iota more of power. It is disgusting, inequine and unbecoming of true nobility. And I will now deal with this – once and for all.

“I know why you called this event. Many of you are scrabbling for power, looking for an excuse to carve your way to higher station without so much of a care as to who you hurt or what damage you do. Last week, you attempted to hurt my precious daughter – your princess – by claiming lies and trying to deny her that which she was rightfully due. In doing so, many of you were rebuffed and some of you, rightly so, were publicly humiliated. I had thought that would have sent a message – one that many of you had no interest in heeding. Indeed, you only took that as a clarion call to continue your actions and to be more ruthless about them.

“Now, you intend to destroy a noble and valiant stallion just for your chance to take a direct shot at me. A shot that you already have, due to laws I wrote long ago, but that wasn’t enough for you. You were willing to ruin anypony if it meant even so much as landing a single scratch upon my reputation. Now you want blood and an innocent stands in your path, one you are willing to trample. And I will not stand for that.”

She eyed all of them, especially the ones that she knew were against her. Some, like Forward Thought, were against her in principle, and she did not hold any malice or blame against them. But the others, like Riven Oak; or worse, like her own niece Highfalutin’, had become the very antithesis of what it was to be a noblepony. It broke her heart to know that and because of that, her anger quickly faded away to a bottomless sorrow, the look on her face one of shame.

“I…am ashamed,” she said softly. “I am ashamed that I was hooves off and let all of this occur. I have the same absolute monarchial authority that so many other kings and queens have, but I hoped – I wished – that ponydom would find its better selves and I would not need to exercise it. I have limited myself in so many ways, because it had been my grand hope that you all would have seen the same light that I do and reach for it, because that is what it is to live nobly, humbly and with grace.”

The grand melody of Celestia’s words began to make the audience murmur. What was she saying? Was she admonishing them? Some wondered why. Some wanted to demand if she had the right.

“I never wanted to be a princess.”

Those words…when spoken, froze the room. All eyes, including those of the alicorns behind her, looked on in shock.

“I am the oldest and when it came time for the throne to be restored, I had no choice. But if I did? I would have never done so. I enjoy being a teacher, a helper, an assistant. It brings me joy and delight to help develop the minds of the future so that they can further the cause of ponies, friendship and harmony throughout this land. I have been honored to do so for my nieces and nephews, my protegée, and even my daughter.” Celestia’s head turned slightly as if to look back at Sunset, but paused.

From where she sat, Sunset wanted to reach out with her telepathy and ask, Mother, what are you doing?

«Sunny, trust her,» came the response from Twilight’s mind.

Sunset looked at her fellow alicorn as if surprised.

The younger one flashed the older a hint of a smile. «I know you’re worried about her, but while I’m surprised Celestia’s doing this…trust her. You know she has a plan, even if I’m at a loss as to what it is.»

Unaware of the mental conversation going on behind her and probably not likely to be concerned by it even if it did occur, Celestia continued: “It probably would have been the best if I hadn’t been princess. If I hadn’t, perhaps the rot in the country wouldn’t have set foot. Or perhaps it was always there – after all, when my mother abdicated the throne, the nobility tried for centuries to split the nation into splinters while grabbing the utmost power they could, and the only reason they gave it up and ‘gave’ the throne back to the alicorns was because of Discord!

“There is a saying: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And I have seen this: The cancer in the nobility growing, that metaphorical tumor metastasizing throughout my old home and spreading until it corrupts all the kind and the generous. So many of you are supposed to live for and guide your ponies, to stand in my place and be there for them. And many of you have, and I cannot be prouder.”

Her eyes became smoldering flints as she said in a thick, acrid tone, “But many more of you haven’t. Many of you have acted as though the populace is here just to serve you, as if they are mere steppingstones to waste yourselves upon while scrabbling for yet another iota of power. That many of you would even go so far as to cut down innocents. And now several of you not only point your swords at the Crown, but at a stallion of generosity and kindness whose only crime is caring about his duty and his truly kind nature. And I will not have it.

“I cannot claim this as treason as this was carefully planned through my own blindness, my own…naivety… that this happened. And I should have done more to nip this in the bud, to ensure that it would not grow worse. But, again, I had naively hoped that those that acted in their ways would realize that no pony is an island and that we all need one another. But apparently some ponies need others more than others – and will crush them when their utility is done. Equestria was not founded on that. Neither my mother, myself nor those behind me stand for that and we will not put up with it for one more minute longer. But this was a crisis, admittedly of my own making – and one I must fix.

“It makes me wonder: have they ever tried to really reach out to the other side? I may be climbing on rainbows to say this, but regardless, dreams are not just for those who sleep – life is for us to keep. But I thought that we knew each other well, enough to make sure that in time, it would tell that we are all interconnected by harmony. But I was wrong. The cancer has only grown strong enough, even to withstand my own subtle efforts – and now something stronger must be done.” Turning to Kibbitz, she said, “Please, bring out the accused.”

“It shall be done, Your Majesty,” he said, nodding to her and signaling to the Solar Guards – in truth, Hooves secretly dressed in Solar Guard armor – who had been assigned to be Divine’s escorts. Given the situation, there were concerns that somepony may have tried to assassinate him and so Celestia acted, with Shining’s concurrence.

“Your Majesty!” Riven Oak spoke from his seat, unsure of what she was doing but determined to put a stop to it before she got the upper hoof. “This is most unusual and—”

“It is not your turn to speak, honored noble,” Kibbitz told him, using the authority of the chancellor. “You will be given leave to do so when the Princess allows it.”

After a few seconds, the quartet came, with Divine in the center. He looked every bit the noblepony standing there, both in demeanor and in nature. Celestia’s face held a mother’s love, while Luna’s that of a proud ruler. Cadance’s soft smile gave her cousin encouragement, while the face of Twilight radiated exactly how she felt about the stallion. Lastly, though he could not have known, the look on Sunset’s face was a study in how such a stallion could be so different from the megalomaniacal man she’d crossed swords with back on Earth.

Celestia looked at him and said, “Captain Right…Prince Divine, my dearest nephew. You have been wronged. And it is my fault. I did not cause this, and I did not ask for it, but it is my negligence that ended up with you here. You were the most convenient target on their way to take my own head, and for that, I am sorry and I hope you can forgive me. Because I cannot forgive myself for letting things become this way.”

She turned back to the crowd. “As of now, I cannot stop this. But I will anyway.” She got off her throne and went over to the younger stallion, embracing him with her wings. “His case is dismissed, effective now and he is entitled to return to active duty immediately.”

“You cannot!” a second voice called out.

“She can if a second princess agrees!” Twilight suddenly spoke. “And I wholeheartedly endorse this action by Princess Celestia—”

“And you’re disqualified!” a second noble called out, starting the engagement in full. “Everypony knows of your relationship with Prince Divine and that makes you a biased source. You cannot—”

The room darkened, and a burning ember lit from behind Celestia. Princess Sunset rose from her throne as well. “Then I will speak. I trust the judgements of my fellow princesses and while I do not know Prince Divine as well as the others, his record speaks for itself, and of that I am aware of.” Teleporting herself over to where the dissenting nobles were, every step she took warped the floor tiles as she walked up towards them. “Unless you care to accuse me of bias.”

The fear in their eyes at Sunset’s approach was exactly what Celestia hadn’t wanted. They feared her and as a result, they would fear the alicorns and would do all the more to try to remove them. She knew her daughter was just doing what she felt was right, but even still, it was a dangerous action to take and one that would do irreparable harm if she didn’t stop it and stop it now.

“Sunset,” she said gently, “back away, my child.”

Sunset turned to face Celestia. “But Mother….”

“It will be fine. Trust me.”

“I always have,” she said, knowing that was a lie. But she did love her mother and regardless, the younger alicorn walked back towards the dais and her own throne.

“Now then,” Celestia said after a few seconds’ worth of pause, “where were we? Ah, yes – I was releasing Capt. Right, dismissing the charges and admonishing all of you for attempting to frame him.”

“And you do not have that right!” a fat, balding stallion by the name of Administrative Rulings glared at her, his contempt obvious. She recognized him as one of the few who spoke often but when he did, his actions clearly defined him as part of Highfalutin’’s faction. He fancied himself a mastermind, and against someone with less experience, he may have well come out on top. But Celestia knew she would win this.

“I do not?” she said smoothly.

“No – under the rules you yourself set when you established parliament, a princess cannot overrule certain proceedings of parliament! And while the endorsement of a second princess can, given the conditions of the situation, the Crown is considered biased and only somepony higher than a princess can make that decision!”

The room devolved into a static hum of murmurs as magical tomes were opened and scrolls were summoned. They would, of course, find out that Rulings’ comments were correct, and Celestia knew this. Twilight, for that matter knew as well, but had counted on the nobles not finding out.

She looked at him, and her eyes said it all: I’m not giving up. I won’t give up.

Though she couldn’t see it, Celestia saw the responding looks in her nephew’s own eyes and knew it was time to strike, before it was too late. In many ways, it already was – and now she was going to pay the price before anypony else did.

“Before we lose order in this court, we have to point something out,” Celestia said to the assembly, hefting the majestic plural once more. “Honored noble Lord Rulings is correct: a princess cannot overrule certain actions of Nobility House, even with the concurrence of another princess. In the past, it has been the wisdom of the nobility to defer to the Crown in these situations. But given the corruption right now and the clear recalcitrance to give in, we must consider this to be a direct attack on the Crown’s authority and so we must respond.”

She stopped for a dramatic pause, and then lowered the boom.

“At this time, we activate the Escalation Protocol.”

At those words, the assembly became alive with cries of shock and disbelief. Finally, after all these years, Celestia was activating the Escalation Protocol. There were also a few cries of “TYRANT!” and other unsavory comments, but Celestia let them slide – soon, it wouldn’t matter what they said.

«Would somepony care to update me on this Escalation Protocol, whatever it is?» Luna sent out to the others.

It was Twilight who responded. «After, uh, Nightmare Moon’s loss, the move of the capital to Canterlot and the establishment of parliament, the nobility were concerned about Celestia becoming an equivalent. And even though she had no interest in the title of queen, she agreed to remain as princess, unless there was a specific situation that called for it. She would thus remain ‘de-escalated’ until an event required the escalation of an Equestrian queen. Therefore, the Escalation Protocol was created. In all the years, I never thought that I would see such a historic—»

«Twi, not now,» Cadance interjected. «Can’t you see the look on Auntie’s face?»

From where she sat, Sunset said nothing, not trusting herself to. She had known her mother long enough to know the anguish she was going through. In many ways, it cut her worse than the rift that had existed between them. This – the rule of parliament – had been a grand creation of her mother and these…bastards…had ruined it all for their own aggrandizement, arrogating too much power and daring themselves to be better than her.

Her eyes caught those of Riven Oak and the absolute indignation he had on his face, as if Celestia dared to do what she was required to do. Then their eyes met and he blanched as he stared into her twin suns.

«If she suffers, there is nowhere you can hide from me,» she sent to him, and he blanched and turned away. But her smile faded as she felt Twilight’s hoof on her wither.

“Don’t be like him,” the younger princess reminded her in a soft whisper. “You’re better than that, Sunny.”

“OBJECTION!” Rulings bellowed out. “I OBJECT TO THIS OBSCENE ATTEMPT AT TRYING TO LORD OVER US! PRINCESS, YOU DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO ACTIVATE THE ESCALATION PROTOCOL!” Waddling out of his chair, the paunchy stallion stormed over, a scroll firmly held in his gaseous green magic aura. “YOU CANNOT ACTIVATE THE PROTOCOL AS YOU YOURSELF ARE UNDER IMPEACHMENT!”

Riven Oak took that and noted it. “Friends? Do you see what is happening?” he began, stepping onto the floor once more, moving so as to avoid the deathglare coming from Sunset. He focused instead on his fellow nobles, readying for his verbal assault. “Princess Celestia has done what we have all feared she would do – she has moved away from the notions of Parliament to save herself and is on the verge of declaring herself a dictator!

“Listen to every word she’s said! She is treating us like children instead of the lords and ladies that we are! She flaunts the rule of law, all in a nepotistic display to save her nephew from the well-deserved punishment he deserves for failing Equestria!” In his element, he turned to face all of them, his voice as smooth as the iron hoof in the silken sock. “Is that the rule of a benevolent leader? Is that the actions of so-called goddess? Neigh! That is the actions of some depravity on the level of Discord or Tirek, somepony that would grind us beneath an ivory hoof and laugh at our powerlessness!

“How dare you!” Divine snarled, reaching for his sword, but was blocked by one of the Hooves escorting him.

“Trust the Princess,” she counseled him. “We have, and she has never steered us wrong.”

Noting the action, Riven Oak went with that. “And as you can see, even the gallant Prince Divine just attempted to threaten me for telling the truth about his would-be dictator of an aunt. I tell you: is that the way that royals should conduct themselves? Do you ever hear anything about the Inariese imperial family acting as such? Neigh! When one of theirs misbehaved, they sent out their own troops to put the recalcitrant Prince Fujitsu in line! And yet here we are…and Princess Celestia is about to pardon her nephew for his mistakes, harm to the public be damned.”

He then pointed at the other princesses. “What…paragons…we have for the Crown. Let me remind you, shall I? The barely controlled and questionably-redeemed Nightmare Moon. An alicorn who uses love – one of the fundamental essences of our lives! – to control her domain and to lord over us. The calculating warrior princess, who claims to be about peace and friendship and yet killed many of our enemies without a thought! And let us not forget Princess Sunset, who has yet to truly prove the statements about humanity! Yes, she put up an impressive magic display that even left me, ahem, ‘stunned’, but a display is not reality.

“These are our so-called leaders! Our supposed guiding lights and yet not only are they as fallible as we are – they are nigh corrupt and are about to embark on a scheme to hoard their power at our expense and that of the populace! Celestia may claim to care about the common pony, but I ask you, fellow nobleponies – would a truly caring goddess try to grasp at more power when her back is to the wall? Would our dear beloved Queen Faust do what her daughter is clearly trying to do at this very moment?

“I refuse to accept this! I refuse to allow our fellow ponies to suffer one more moment under this farce of a Crown! Queen Faust, rather than lord over ponies, departed for the Great Pasture, to allow us to set a course for our own future. That, my friends, is the act of a benevolent and beneficent goddess! Princess Celestia and her cabal, on the other hoof, would have us under their hooves for all eternity – a perpetual ‘Mother May I’ for all time!” He looked at the crowd one final time, letting his oratory abilities carry him through to the paramount. “Why must we be perpetually slaved to Princess Celestia’s idea of how things should be? Why will she not take the gentle way out as her mother did and let ponydom decide its own future? I WILL TELL YOU WHY – BECAUSE SHE DOES NOT WANT THAT! SHE EXPECTS TO BE OUR RULER FOR ALL TIME AND THAT WE SHOULD JUST ACCEPT THAT! WELL, I DO NOT! I DEMAND THAT SHE AND HER ILK GIVE UP THEIR CROWNS AND HEAD TO THE GREAT PASTURE SO THAT PONYDOM MAY FINALLY DECIDE ITS OWN FATE AS IT WAS MEANT TO! IF SHE IS SO CONCERNED WITH THE FUTURE OF THE COMMON PONY, THEN LET PONYKIND CHOOSE ITS OWN FUTURE, WITHOUT ONE FOR CROWN AND GODHEAD!”

The room broke out in a cacophony of disturbing cheers, claps and stomping of hooves as Oak’s fellow accomplices sounded their approval. In their thrones, the four princesses remained impassive, though the angry glares in the eyes of four alicorns made it clear just what they thought of Riven Oak and his little scheme.

But Celestia showed no concern.

Instead, she looked at the crowd and said, “Marquis Riven Oak…is correct. I cannot assume the position of queen, and because of the very laws I have written myself, so long ago, I cannot activate the Escalation Protocol for myself. And as I told you, I never wished to be a princess to begin with. If so, I certainly have no interest in being queen.

“But Equestria is now at the point where it must be done to protect the innocent. And so I do what must be done, because although I have no desire to be a princess…I am one, regardless. Your princess. And that means doing things for the best of the nation’s interests.

“And so with that…I activate the Escalation Protocol…and effective immediately, I, Celestia, Princess Regnal of Equestria, hereby abdicate my throne in favor of my sister, Luna, Crown Princess.” Celestia turned to look at her sister…then bowed. “It will be she who will be your new queen.”


“On the contrary, she does.” Departing his own seat and walking to the floor, Fancy Pants held up an old book. “The Royale Booke of Dayes, first edition, 224 Anno Alicornis. It states, and I quote, that while the princess does not have the authority to activate the Escalation Protocol, it says nothing about her activating it on behalf of another. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent Princess Luna from ascending the throne.” He turned to look at the now-stunned princess. “It all falls on you, Your Highness.”

Luna suddenly looked wide-eyed and afraid. She had tried to take over the world in her madness as Nightmare Moon, but now she was very much sane and very much understanding of what it took to run a nation, much less a modern one. She suddenly felt like a rabbit – and not Fluttershy’s pet – and very much wanting to run.

Seeing that look on her face, combined with the shocked look of the crowd, Kibbitz knew he had to act quickly. Clapping the stave of his position against the ground once and letting the sound ring throughout the room, he said, “We shall have a short recess so that cooler heads may prevail in this situation.”

In his office, Riven Oak was fit to be tied. Throwing a temper tantrum, he threw things off his desk, screamed loud enough to blister the wallpaper and scared his staff to the point that one fainted and was left on the ground twitching.

“HOW DARE THAT HARRIDELLE!?!” he roared. “How dare she try this little act when the throne was as good as mine? Her little stunt has undone everything we have worked to accomplish!”

“Oh, ease off, you blowhard,” Rulings’ commented as he sat nearby, stuffing his face with a double chili hayburger. “While this was certainly unplanned, you’re forgetting who the choices are. Princess Luna? Heh – ever since she’s been cured of her madness, she’s a retiring little wallflower with even less of a spine than Lady Knight Fluttershy. Princess Cadance? Oh, please. That mare’s the ‘Goddess of Love’ – and I suspect that all you’d need to do is stand in line for five minutes before she decided to share some of her ‘royal wares’ with you, especially with the news about Shining Armor this morning. And Princess Twilight? Despite her ‘warrior princess’ title, that little bookworm cares about one thing and one thing only: books. Throw a small library at her and she won’t care about anything else.”

Riven’s eyes narrowed. “You seem to have forgotten Celestia’s little monster.”

“No, I did not. Despite your public statements, you know as well as I do that humanity exists, and that Princess Sunset is too tied up with her life now on Earth to ever care about the throne. There is even a rumor within the palace that one of her entourage is actually her lover and that the true reason she came to Equestria was not to show off her pretty little wings or to get a crown from her mother, but to instead get her mother’s blessing with a marriage to this human, whoever it is. Trust me, Princess Sunset will be too busy playing ‘looking in the mirror’ – or whatever humans call it – to ever bother with the throne.

“So all you need to worry about is Princess Luna. She’s weak. Spineless. And, I daresay, probably more likely to desire a husband than her ice-queen of a sister. If I were a younger stallion, I’d arrange an ‘accident’ for my wife and then try my own hoof at the lunar stifle.” Rulings’ eyes took on a lascivious look as he added, “They do say moonlight is for lovers, do they not?”

Riven smiled. Rulings was a gasbag, but had a sharp mind, nonetheless. And he had just passed him an ideal way not only to the throne, but potentially to alicornhood as well.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he commented. “And if I do, I know who to reward for such counsel.”

“Good. The sooner that greasy sycophant Kibbitz is out of the picture, the better. After all, what pony is better suited for Chancellor than such as I?” Rulings chortled.

Had the two actually been more wary of their situation, they would have seen a black-and-red waterfly depart a nearby flower vase, flow out of the cracked window, then turn into a starhawk, blasting away on glowing but silent wings, headed towards Highfalutin’’s domain.

Snug in Kibbitz’ private office in Nobility House, Luna sat down on a chaise longue and tried to make sense of everything that had just occurred in the past few minutes. After a few more seconds, she came to the conclusion that she couldn’t, and instead wished she had some of Rarity’s natural instincts for fainting on couches on time.

“I…I can’t do this,” she said softly, her eyes filled with worry.

“You can, sister. You must,” Celestia told her. “Cadance cannot do this, nor can Twilight. I certainly can’t ask Sunset to, not after everything she has in her world. It must fall on your withers.”

“I can take up the role of Crown Princess once more,” Cadance offered, “but I have no wish to be the ruling princess, much less queen. I’m much better at being a diplomat and serving ponies in my own aspect.”

“Don’t look at me,” Twilight said. “I have enough on my plate without becoming queen. And besides, Queen Twilight? Ugh – that sounds like the name of a bad story if you ask me.”

Sunset, for her part, said nothing. She knew because of her situation, none would ask her, nor could she volunteer herself. Besides, her mind was on other things at the moment.

The door to the office opened and in rushed Divine Right, a desperate look on his face. “Auntie, no, you don’t have to do this for my sake! I will take impeachment, cashiering, even exile, but I do not want you to take the fall for what they are doing to me!”

A soft look came over Celestia’s face as she looked at her nephew. She then looked at her daughter, who she knew had the same questions, as did her niece, her protegée, and probably every other pony in the room.

“I’m…tired. I was serious when I said I never wanted to be princess. I did it because that is what my mother taught me, the very same values I have worked hard to instill in all of you and I couldn’t be more proud that they have taken root. But it was never my wish to become a ruler, much less the ruler. There is a reason I never took my mother’s position and that is because I didn’t want to be princess – why would I wish to be queen? While I am proud of the work I have done as princess, my personal greatest accomplishment is that of the education system – if dreams were real, I would be leading that, while Mother would still sit upon the throne, freeing me to do what I desire to do.

She looked at her daughter. “Sunset, when I heard that my counterpart was a teacher and an extremely successful one at that, I told her flat out that I was envious of how much she has. All my personal protegeés were my way of contributing to the system and…a hobby, you could say, though their lives and futures meant far more to me than that. But the Celestia you have daily interaction with, in my own opinion, has a far more important and greater role than I have. I merely pass laws and move the sun. She helps shape the future.

“I have ruled for over a millennium by myself and even with the assistance of the minor princes and princesses, it has been a lonely job. And I am tired of it. My choice to abdicate was to save Divine, yes,” she said as she put a wing around her nephew, “but it was to save myself as well. Sister, your loss cost you everything for so long and you are just now recovering from that. In that time, I have lost so much as well, but I have had no break. And now I need one before it breaks me.

“I cannot take these…beasts any longer. I cannot take that they are ruining Mother’s achievements and future. But most of all? I can’t take…that I can’t deal with this any further. That my body and soul is screaming at me to give up now, even though my sense of duty continues to tell me that I must be the Princess, because that is all I know.” She reached out with a hoof and brushed Sunset’s mane out of her eyes. “I envy your strength, my daughter. You had the courage, even if misplaced, to forge your own path and become your own mare. I have been trapped in the gilded cage my entire life and I…I….”

For the first time in her life, Celestia finally let the weight of everything hit her and she broke down crying. All the pain she’d felt for centuries, the crushing loneliness and the suffocating burden of rule, finally collapsed on her and it horrified Sunset to see her mother as a broken, shattered thing. Acting on instinct, Sunset returned to her human form and embraced her, something far easier to do as a human than in her normal size.

Luna’s face reflected her sister’s pain. I did this to her. We could have been a diarchy, or something. I could have found a way to beat my own weaknesses and taken the heat from her. I could have taken over the Crystal Empire instead of letting Sombra have his ways – that made that human girl suffer and become twisted into so much.

So much of this is my fault.

“Sister….” Luna made her way over to the older alicorn, sister looking at sister. She then turned to Sunset. “I will make this better, I promise.” She then turned back to Celestia and said, “If this is what needs to be done, then I shall.”

“I don’t…I don’t want you to suffer again,” Celestia said, her mouth thick from the words spoken. She looked old at that point, worn out – mortal. A far cry from the majestic brilliance of their own mother.

“Life is pain, as I’ve once found out,” Luna said glibly. She then reached down with a wing and gently raised her sister’s head. “And Mother would want this. Had she known that you didn’t want to be a princess, she probably would have delayed her ascension to the Great Pasture long enough for me to come of age and learn statecraft, as you did.”

“I can’t—”

“It’s done. I can’t bear to see you in pain like this, Cellie. As you said earlier, this is ultimately my fault and my duty to fix. I want you to find the happiness you’ve denied yourself for so long. To find love, to find a happy life and enjoy a world free from the crushing cares you’ve had.” She gestured to Cadance. “And you’ve given me a good understudy and someone I can hand the crown to someday.”

“Don’t push your luck,” Cadance cracked.

Luna patted Sunset on her shoulder. “Take her to her room. Her duty is done in this, and it is time to face my duty.”

“Are you sure about this, Aunt Luna?” Sunset asked.

“Were you sure when you crossed the portal to come back here to Equestria to save your sister?” came the reply. “You should know the answer.”

After the adjournment, and the nobles took their place, they were still stunned to see Celestia’s seat as empty as Faust’s. And things became even more shocking – audibly so – when Celestia’s throne was picked up by the court stewards…and moved to the rear, alongside Faust’s. In its place, Luna’s was moved forwards.

The wordless action was clear. The world had, as Celestia said, changed, irrevocably and forever.

Once it was done, Kibbitz wandered in and called out, “By the power invested in me by Celestia, Princess Regnal of Equestria, I announce the following: Effective immediately, Princess Celestia has abdicated the throne of Equestria and activated the Escalation Protocol on behalf of her sister, Luna. Princess Luna has accepted and due to the emergency situation will be crowned as Queen of Equestria, effective tonight at midnight. A public announcement will be made at a later date and a formal enthronement ceremony will be made when available.

“In the interim, Princess Celestia’s final decree as ruling princess is that Prince Divine’s case is to be dismissed with haste and with prejudice, and he is to resume his duties immediately. Furthermore, as this impacts the nobility, the current session of Nobility House has been disbanded and will recommence once all nobles have resworn their allegiance to both Equestria and the incoming Queen Luna.

“That is all.”

Nothing further to say, Kibbitz departed, ignoring the screams and the shocked cries behind him. He already knew those truly loyal would be eager to do this and would do this as soon as possible. Those that held no such standards would either wait until the last possible second or might even dare to risk their status being stripped. It was those on the fence that he worried about, but hopefully Luna would prove to be every bit the statesmare her sister had been.

He chuckled softly. Politics was clearly a young pony’s game. Perhaps, like his mistress, it was time for him to depart the stage as well.

Midnight approached. And with it, so did fate – in the midnight sky burned both sun and moon, in eclipse, a sign of what was to come. The news had managed to filter out before the palace could put together a public statement and a shocked populace worried about a second attack from Nightmare Moon. The fear, after all, was justified; given everything that they had just been through, it was perfectly normal to expect that the world would be wainscoted once more, and the order of everything would be undone.

But just a few hours ago, Celestia, with Sunset at her side, gave a final, magical address to the public, detailing everything and pointing out that this was the best both for the nation and for her, that she would not have done it had the situation been so dire, and that in truth, this is what Equestria needed and that she hoped the public would support Luna as much as they supported her throughout the years. And as Celestia finally departed the public stage for the last time, the crowd exploded in joyous applause and stomping of feet, singing songs to their now-to-depart princess, a sign of the utmost respect and love.

There were some, in the nation, who hated this moment and some who looked at it with opportunity. But every soul in Equestria knew the change was coming, and there would be no way to stop it. And now, with the whole of Canterlot watching from afar, and as the news spread out towards Equestria and the world, it was finally to come.

Present for this was a small gathering of family, friends and trusted servants and nobles. They would be the ones to record this moment in history. Luna had already decided to have her formal enthronement during the Winter Moon Solstice Celebration, but for now, this small purpose would suffice.

Of all those present, they all had differing thoughts on the matter. Though there, Divine felt wracked with guilt over the whole matter and even Twilight’s comforting words couldn’t break him out of it; it was hoped that in time, she could do so. Cadance and Shining talked; they knew with this change it would mean they would have to leave the Crystal Empire and return to Canterlot so Cadance could resume her duties as Crown Princess. In turn, Prince Exhibition was selected to step in and become the governor of the Empire, so he would not have much longer in town before he had to take on the greater duties, something he had to admit would be an event to look forward to.

For Twilight’s court, who had been there since Luna’s return – in truth, their coming together had been the result of that – were proud to be at this moment. For all of them, it felt like the circle had been closed, and a new stage of their lives was now to commence. What that meant for any of them, they weren’t sure, but they knew they would face it together. And, given the subsequent appearances of Raspberry, Coco and Divine in their lives, it only meant their circle grew larger still. As harmony willed.

For Blueblood, he wondered if putting aside his false persona earlier could have prevented this – that if he’d just buckled down and looked at the threat from within Nobility House, he could have prevented his aunt’s shameful departure from the throne. Granted, this part of his life was behind him now, and all that awaited was a future with Octavia, but…part of him wanted to take a sword and run it through certain ponies who fancied themselves “nobles”.

He wasn’t the only one. Sunset seethed like a cauldron at the moment. She had witnessed something she had wanted to see, but now that she had, swore she wanted it out of her mind forever more: her mother, broken and weakened, defeated. They had brought her to this moment and right now the only thing that prevented her from getting revenge—

“Sunset, can we talk for a second?” Blueblood asked.

“I know what you’re going to say, but it doesn’t change my mind.”

“I’d hoped it wouldn’t. Follow me; we still have some time before this all commences.” Wandering past the retinue of ponies, they found a secluded area. As they were alone, Blueblood cast the spell and suddenly before Sunset was a young man dressed in a tuxedo. She had to admit, he looked good and Octavia was definitely lucking out.

Sunset changed as well and sat down. “I know what you’re going to say, Blu: I shouldn’t be thinking about revenge—”

“Really?” he chuckled. “Because if truth be told, I was going to go over and slay some of those bastards myself and I’d get away free, because I’ll be on Earth in a few days.” She looked at him oddly and as she did, he smiled. “You’re not the only one that loves her, you know. She might be your mother, but she’s also my aunt.”

“True.” She slumped in her seat. “I just feel like this is my fault. Like everything I’ve done brought her to this moment and if I’d been a better daughter, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“And I feel like if I’d been more diligent in my job, I would have caught them. Divine feels similar, and I don’t doubt Shining isn’t any different. Twi…well, I’ve known her long enough that I can see the guilt on her face even if she’s trying to hide it. The point is, everypony is feeling that way right now, because none of us really knew how Auntie was feeling. She never really told us and kept it inside. And now it’s all spilled out, and everypony feels horrible about that. That’s just a very pony – or human, I presume, since we’re that now as well – feeling. It’s all because we love her and if we didn’t, well…we’d be no better than those who drove her to this point.”

“I guess.”

“Don’t guess, know.”

“I suppose I can try,” she said in a disbelieving voice.

“Do or do not, there is no try.” When Sunset gave him another odd look, he laughed. “Saw the movie last night with Tavi on her laptop. I have to admit, that little green guy spoke oddly, but definitely had some nuggets of wisdom.”

“Yeah, I guess.” She looked in the sky and could see the moon almost reaching the point of eclipse. At midnight, in just a few short moments, everything would end…everything would begin.

“I guess time to get back and be there for her,” Sunset said as she returned to her alicorn form.

“That’s what family does,” Blueblood assured her as he followed suit. “That’s why we’re family.”

Finally, the moment came, and the music began, the small band present playing, “In Regnum Aeternum Solis.” Celestia had wondered if that would be the last time the song would be played, but Luna had assured her the national anthem would forever remain the same in honor of her. And now escorted by a group of Hooves – the Hooves themselves having decided to remain in the Crown’s employ, though a select group would forever be assigned to work with their “eternal Princess” – the queen-to-be was escorted to her throne.

“Are you ready, Your Highness?” asked Fancy Pants. In the short time between the afternoon discussion and now, Kibbitz had announced that he would retire from the position of both seneschal and chancellor. While Black Cherry would assume the position of Chancellor, that left the seneschal position open. Raven, though having served as Luna’s seneschal, had recommended Fancy Pants replace her, as the new queen would need somepony far more experienced than her. And while Raven would remain with the Crown, it was decided that she would take over chief of staff of Celestia’s office as even though the solar princess would no longer rule, she would likely still be involved enough in the short term that somepony needed to wrangle her administrative staff.

“As ready as I shall ever be,” Luna said nervously as she sat on her throne. Normally, it would be no bother, but this time she sat as a princess for the final time. Two Solar Guards thus draped the robe of state on her, and fell into position at her side, continuing their steady duty.

Finally, Celestia reached over and grabbed the new crown of Equestria: Faust’s platinum crown, with countless jewels and beautiful velvet capping. It had not been worn by a queen in millennia, and now it was time to do this once again. Reaching over for the object, Celestia moved it gently through the air and placed it on her sister’s head.

“I am so proud of you, Lulu,” Celestia said softly. “I just wish I was strong enough to bear this burden.”

“You bore it long enough,” Luna told her. “It is my turn to do so, and yours to rest. And hopefully, your thousand years of relaxation will be more fun than mine was.”

Celestia gave a pained smile. “Then I hope you can accept this.” And with that, she turned and said, “All present, before the Stars, I give to you our Queen – Luna.”

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