• 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 5 - A Day to Remember

Golden Age of Apocalypse Book 3 Chapter 5

A Day to Remember

During the times when the Guard or Army did a traditional run down the main streets of Canterlot, it was both a display of prowess in the protectors of Equestria as well as a show of national pride. The young stallions and mares, regardless of what division they would ultimately be assigned to, all galloped up and down the streets under the broad daylight of Celestia’s sun. Under the proud watch of ponies throughout the city, the populace knew that the next generation of defenders trained and stood ready to be there for ponies, hoof, wing and horn. Over the years, this had become a tradition known as the Military Gallop.

Today, however, came a very different story. Rather than the thundering hooves that accompanied the military recruits that echoed throughout the streets in the midday, a very different sound came just before the rise of dawn, at an hour where very few ponies and other beings were awake.

“LEFT, LEFT, LEFT RIGHT LEFT!
WE LOVE TO DOUBLETIME!
WE DO IT ALL THE TIME!”

To those who had been awakened by the strange chanting, they looked out their various windows to see something that had never been seen before on the streets of Canterlot: dozens of strange, minotaur-like figures, all wearing odd, form-fitting clothing and following after another figure that was taller than all but one of them. Their movements were rhythmic, clapping the pavement and seemingly a muted version of the Military Gallop, but at the same time, their cadance canted into the sky as they moved along.

“JOLLY, JOLLY, SIX FOOT FOUR
PUT HIS FOOT RIGHT IN MY DOOR!
BREAK HIM LIKE HE’S MADE OF GLASS –
SIRENS KICK SOME SERIOUS ASS!”

The figures moved with a purpose that seemed like a parody of the Military Gallop: rather than the armor of the Army or the Guard, the strange creatures all wore shirts that bore the simple word NAVY, dark blue shorts, an painful-looking attire on what might have been their hooves. The procession moved quieter than the Military Gallopers but sang loud enough for their chants to peal from the alleyways louder than the great bells of the Church of the Alicorns.

Legends had foretold, from generation to generation, of these monsters: humans. Nevermind the claim from the Crown that they had come in peace – this was clearly an army of the beasts, meant to subdue and conquer and spread an evil even more vile than that of Tirek.

Foals brave enough to peek through windows looked on in fright, cowed by the stories their parents had told them of these fiends. In turn, parents nearby clutched their children, pulling them away from windows and closing the shutters as fast as they could. Those unlucky souls outdoors quickly tried to find themselves a location as far away from the growing horde as their hooves could carry them.

More than a few wondered why Celestia would allow this to occur – in the capital, no less! But there had been more than enough questions of late about their regent. And the freakish figures continued down the promenade, those who watched with horror and anxiety only added to those who would ask questions as to what was happening to their world.

In any case, this was clearly an ill omen – on today, of all days – as the unnatural beasts roamed the streets, and it was a catastrophic portent for the coronation of Equestria’s newest princess.

As the SIRENs jogged down the street, with the original four in the front, followed by the Advanced Training Group and then finally the remainder of the candidates behind them, Sable quietly gave himself a smile of satisfaction. It was military tradition for unit cohesion to have the troops run together as one, and given soon that he, the triplets and the ATG would have to return to Earth to plan out Sunset’s full protection operations, there would likely be scant opportunities to do this with the whole of the group. Best to do it now while they had the chance, especially since the majority of these SIREN candidates would not get the rush training that the ATG would, nor would they immediately move to Earth.

He then made a mental note to discuss the construction of the new SIREN base, which would house SIREN Development Training Command, Special Initiative Command and anything else that would fall under Troubleshoes’ purview. It made him wonder if he was putting too much on his new Force Master Chief, but given the man’s extensive experience in the human Special Warfare community, it was probably right up his alley, anyway.

He did, however, make a second mental note to talk with Troubleshoes about the potential of setting up Construction Battalions. From his talk with Adviso yesterday, Equestria had scarcely heard of military engineering and naval military engineering even less so. Furthermore, with the SIRENs restricted to their human forms unless they were on leave, they would grow used to human norms, something not common here where humanity was still a myth. Having Seabees building in human dimensions would not only help speed up acclimation to human norms for the Equestrian military, but might also be a way for males to be assigned to the SIC and even in their normal forms rather than just humanized. He would have to discuss that with Sunset later.

But for now, Sable turned to look at his three subordinates, the members of the ATG and the other immediate candidates that had been chosen for training. Today, SIREN stepped out of the shadows and into the light, and under the first rays of dawn they marched down the streets of Canterlot to let the ponies of this world know their newest protectors stood ready.

He wondered what the ponies thought as they saw them move on. Probably pride, most likely.

“Rise and shine, Little Sun. The day can't start without you."

It had been over five years since it happened, but as Sunset drearily woke to that familiar phrase being called, the passage of time had not made it seem out of the ordinary, as if the last occurrence had only been yesterday.

“Unh….there’s gotta be some irony in that given I’m named for the day ending of all things,” groggily said the young alicorn, rubbing her eyes with her hooves. She then looked woosily at the window – it was still night outside. “Uh, Mother? Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Celestia shook her head. “Given that today is your long awaited coronation, I figured it would only be appropriate that you were with me when I raised the sun.”

“Oh, uh, okay.” Sunset quickly got out of bed and cast a refresher spell on herself, in order to skip the usual morning rituals of the average, everyday high school junior...who happened to be an almost immeasurably powerful deity.

Soon, the two of them were walking down the corridors of Castle Canterlot, their hoofsteps echoing through the hallways. At such an early hour, the only ponies active were the various maidstaff, Hooves included, though with the seaponies in disguise they seemed rather agitated.

“The maids seem unnerved,” Sunset commented to the taller alicorn.

“They’re usually like this, especially since this is the first major national event following the whole war with Tirek. Coupled with a whole slew of things going on, none of the Hooves would say it to you but they honestly would prefer to get your coronation over and done with, so there isn’t as much of a threat.” As if to underline it, the elder solar alicorn gestured towards a Hoof walking past them; though dressed in the typical maidstaff attire of the palace, the throwing knives she had strapped around her hindlegs weren’t as subtly hidden as they would normally be.

“It feels like coming back to Equestria with my whole family - my human family, mind - was a mistake,” said Sunset, glumly. “Applejack got mauled by a bear with an afro, Rainbow got pretty beat up as well, poor Tavi nearly got turned into an Inijarin consort at swordtip, and then to top it all off, I basically had a winged aphrodisiac attached to my head and I really just don’t want to worry about how Pinkie and I feel about each other!”

“While it is regrettable about what has happened to your friends and family,” said Celestia, choosing her words carefully - after all, although the bond between her and Sunset had largely been mended, it had been the younger mare’s human relations that had truly brought Sunset back on the right path, “as I understand it, Miss Apple and Miss Dash were injured as a result of stepping in to assist the younger sisters of their Equestrian counterparts. And the incident upon your cousin’s near-kidnapping by the disgraced prince Fujitsu is a matter that I’m sure Equestria's ambassadors to Inari will not let the kitsune forget anytime soon, but…” a wistful smile came to her muzzle, “it’s certainly had an unexpected benefit, as, if what I’ve heard is true, your cousin Blueblood certainly has been making the most of every opportunity he can get to spend time with her.”

“Come again? I know Blueblood met Tavi after he saved her, but they don’t really seem to be running in the same circles.”

“Understandably, you’ve been preoccupied with...other matters, but it would seem that instead of being seen by the best psychiatrists in the city for her condition, Miss Melody has instead been giving free concerts at Tierfenbuckers. And escorted by Blueblood himself.”

“How exactly do you even know that?”

“The Hooves, of course - after Dolente Ascent gave her life in protecting Octavia, the Castellan was willing to commit three more Hooves to her personal security detail. It was Blueblood himself who overruled that and stated he was going to assign Agency assets to protect her. Granted, that alone is something he’s never done for any mare that expressed interest in him, but Marimba found out that the asset he placed to watch over her is himself, of all ponies!”

“That’s odd, because apparently the only mares interested in him are vapid socialites. Or, apparently, every single kirin in the city on the orders of their empress.”

“Yes, I will need to talk to Rainshine about that, as apparently more than a few ponies are starting to believe that the kirin are a race of dragon-pony prostitutes. It doesn’t help that before Blueblood helped their village, they were entirely cut off as a society. I feel they may have even regressed some.”

“Given social isolation, maybe they think that it’s totally normal - goodness knows there’s probably species out there that think ponykind has some kind of polygynous ‘herd’ mentality where one male gets to screw a bunch of females due to the gender imbalance of pony kind.”

“Wherever would they get that idea?”

“I dunno, probably that Cats film Rainbow dared us all to watch some months back. I’m pretty sure it was some kind of weird porn - and given I’m from a non-human race? Seeing humans portrayed as furred animals was especially unsettling. And that was just the straight adaptation of the stage play from 1988 - I’d hate to see a version done with modern effects. It might cause the Abyssians to sue for false representation. It might also look like something that you get after consuming massive amounts of hallucinogenic drugs.”

“Hrrm, yes,” said Celestia, though she had no idea what ‘hallucinogenic drugs’ were - maybe it was like consuming too much alcohol? She herself couldn’t get drunk as her metabolism processed it too fast for it to take effect, but she’d seen plenty of ponies over the centuries succumb to alcohol overconsumption. However, it did prompt her to think about another, very recent discussion she’d had about drugs from the human world. “Sunset, I feel that I should disclose to you that I spoke with your human parents and they did ask if you were exposed to powerful drugs on the level of this, erm, ‘Vibe’ which you helped stop soon after you were brought into their family.”

Sunset didn’t reply for a bit, clearly lost in thought. “In a way,” she finally began, “I guess the effect the Allucinor venom had on me was kind of like the Vibe, except the only suggestions I was being made to follow were my own. No offense, Mother, but I’d really not think about that right now.”

“I understand,” replied Celestia. The two continued walking in silence before the solar matriarch once again spoke up, almost as if trying to fill the void. “Sunset, I just want you to know that, no matter what happens today or after today, I am proud of you and everything you’ve accomplished. And all that you will do further still.”

“I know,” said Sunset, though in the corner of her eye, Celestia noted the blush on the younger alicorn’s muzzle.

Finally, the duo arrived at Celestia’s private quarters.

“Feels like forever since I’ve been here,” said Sunset to herself in a whisper. Celestia heard it, but chose not to acknowledge as if she had. As habit always dictated, she trotted over to her familiar balcony overlooking the city of Canterlot, and beyond it, the eastern lands of Equestria. It always brought a smile to her muzzle to look out across the land of her people, her ponies, and see them thrive - though ever since Tirek waged war on the country, the scars still could be seen.

She didn’t even need to look down to know that Sunset stood next to her side, just like the days of old before they had drifted apart. It always had been something Sunset had treasured, being right next to the Princess of All as she raised the epitome of warmth and light itself into the sky. Celestia also knew that Sunset would have already remarked as such had her thoughts not been elsewhere.

So, to further remind her daughter of happier times, Celestia lit her horn ablaze in her yellow aura, bright as the day itself. She reached out with her magic onto the big burning nuclear furnace countless miles away in the sky and with her great magical strength, tugged it up. Since before Celestia had even been born, the path of the sun and moon had been etched into reality along a track of magic that nopony knew the origin of. In times of old, it had been teams of unicorns who would handle the cycle of day and night, but Celestia was unsure if there were any ponies alive who were not alicorns that could handle this task - her top and really only two choices had of course ascended to alicornhood themselves.

Thus, it fell to her as it had every single day across millenia to bring the day. On the other side of the castle, Luna was doing the same but in reverse to lower the moon. The transition between day and night was a delicate balance and it was the transition that the arcane tracks the celestial bodies followed were at their weakest, needing a helpful push to keep the cycle going. Numerous other countries on the planet had of course tried to take control of the day and night cycle, usually with disastrous results Celestia had dealt with, but the fact the planet was named Equus reminded all who controlled time itself.

Then she noticed Sunset had proceeded forward and was leaning on the railing - exactly as she had as a filly. It had been something Celestia had missed for so long, and despite both of them being immortal at this point, would likely never see again given Sunset’s place in a completely different reality.

Nothing was said further as Celestia finished her butt-assigned duty of raising the sun, feeling the magic tether detach as the Sun’s own magical presence latched onto the framework that would carry it across the sky.

“Y’know, it’s funny that you and Aunt Luna move the sun and moon,” said Sunset out of the blue. “On Earth, the day and night cycle occur from the rotation of the planet, with the Moon being independent of the Sun. It does make me wonder: does Equus actually rotate or is it simply static in space?”

“I...actually don’t know,” admitted Celestia. “You’d have to ask a member of the Astronomy Guild about it, I suppose.”

“I might just do that.” Sunset then turned, nuzzled Celestia, and began walking away. “Still, thanks for bringing me up here, I didn’t realize how much I missed being a filly. But that’s in the past - I need to get ready for the pomp and circumstance.”

In another part of Canterlot, in the rising sun, two figures threw and punched against one another, moving with an acrobatic grace that amazed any of the few housekeeping staff that were up and watching the whole thing. Punches and kicks, sweeps and feints, throws and parries – both were going all out, trusting that the other would be able to control their strength and prevent injury.


But as Applejack barely dodged the fist thrown at her, only to be swept off her feet and land on the ground with an embarrassing plant, she realized she was outclassed. She’d studied tae kwon do for most of her life and was going up against someone who didn’t even study formal martial arts...and yet, here she was, dropped completely on the ground, unable to keep up with her sparring partner.


Pinkie offered her friend a hand up. “Thanks for working out with me, AJ.”


“Pinkie...Ah’m not gonna mince words: Where the hell have you been studying? Ah’ve been doing this mah whole life and you just dusted mah ass like it was nothing!”


Pinkie gave her friend a sad smile. “I don’t think I’m human anymore. I’m...tied to Sunny now, tied in a way I can’t explain.”


Applejack looked at her friend, saying nothing. It had only been late last night that Pinkie had finally come out of her shell and went to see everyone to let them know she was okay. But the blonde could see that not everything was okay, despite what the cotton-candy-haired girl stated. “Did Sunny…?”


“No. No one did. Or rather…it was always my destiny to be her Swordbearer.” Pinkie looked away. “It was always my fate to protect her. I just hope she doesn’t stop loving me for what I know I have to do.”


“And that is?” Applejack asked. She didn’t understand what Pinkie was saying. She wasn’t sure she understood anything anymore.


It didn’t help that Pinkie started walking away, pausing only to say over her shoulder, “Let’s go eat breakfast and get ready, AJ. It’s going to be a long day.”


Her tone of voice was low and subdued, but Applejack figured she was going to be fine. Or, well enough to make it through the coronation at least. Then Pinkie stopped mid-stride, as if she had just realized she’d forgotten something.


“Actually, you go on ahead AJ,” she said, before turning and heading back in the direction of the guest rooms.


“Okay. I’ll save you a spot at breakfast,” Applejack offered.


But Pinkie just said, “Don’t bother. I probably won’t be down ‘till later.”


The words were as good as a red flag raised at full mast to Applejack. Well shoot. Guess it’s time to muster up the damage control crew.

“That lock isn’t gonna hold,” stated Lockbox, to which Razz rolled her eyes. While the coronation was in a few hours, right now was a rare opportunity where somepony wasn’t requiring Raspberry for some official duty or some inevitable false alarm about yet another “cursed mailbox” that was nothing more than a malfunctioning privacy spell meant to keep any random pony from reading another pony’s mail. So she figured it would be best to spend time with her distant cousin Lockbox, both to enjoy the company of the only blood relative she knew of but also the one other pony Razz could openly discuss matters of their shared heritage to King Sombra when it came to their black arts affinity.

In particular, their ties to Sombra through his mysterious mirror and the foreboding prophecy engraved on its back. The conversation for the most part went as Razz expected, but when Lockbox immediately found the vault door more interesting, that worried Razz as a result.


“Hold against what?” Razz dared to ask. “They just replaced it after that dark magic energy beam from the Amulet ripped through the previous one.”


Anything,” emphasized Lock, rolling her eyes at the same time. “Sure, it’s got specially reinforced crystal sandwiched between pure bedrock that’s been treated with rheanimum, and the lock is a septuplet hypoid pinion tumbler––”

“A what?”


“A bolt mechanism composed of smaller bolt mechanisms,” the locksmith explained. “But here’s the thing: a diamond dog with half a brain cell could just core right through this if they worked with a pony who could radically shift the internal temperature within the door between freezing and boiling points for water.” She held up a hoof when Razz tried to offer a counter argument, adding “and yeah, the massive list of protective spells that are probably on the door and the vault would prevent that, but wouldn’t that be approaching the same kind of security protecting the walls of this very castle?”


“ Well, I guess,” admitted Razz, “but wouldn’t that be a good thing?”


“If it was just a random vault in some big bank, it would be ridiculously overkill. But here in the castle? It’s only as good against somepony or something that doesn’t need to brute-force their way through the castle defenses. Otherwise, the party in question wouldn’t break a sweat simply ripping this massive eyesore from its hinges. Don’t know why Tirek didn’t do just that when he barged into the castle and sent this whole country into another massive crisis.”


At that point, Heliodor suddenly let out a soft cry as he appeared at the entrance of the vault, gliding in to land on Razz’s horn as he typically did. He seemed to be bothered by something, but Lockbox could only look on in confusion as Razz apparently channeled Fluttershy and understood what the bird was trying to convey.


“That is a good point, Heelee,” agreed Razz, before turning back to Lock. “During that whole Tirek thing, why didn’t he go after you? You’re the only other pony who was regularly using dark magic and given Tirek apparently could smell my power from miles away, the fact all of Nightshade was soaked in the faux-curse of werewolves and whatever leaves it in question how exactly Nightshade survived the war virtually untouched.”


That led into Lockbox laughing. “Would you believe during that week I actually was out of the country, all the way over in Saddle Arabia?”


“I thought you wouldn’t leave Nightshade unless it was an absolute emergency?”


“Or a specific request,” corrected Lock. “Remember: I’m not just a locksmith, but a blacksmith, too. Apparently a noble heard from a griffin who had been stationed at Clawhoof that I can restore vintage armor to be entirely dent-free. I was there when that centaur started attacking all of Equestria ”

“That doesn’t explain Nightshade though.”

“This is only theory, but the quote-unquote ‘curse’ I put on the folks back home only really has dark magic be detectable when the spell is active. Tirek probably could sense you because you’re constantly using it.” She gestured to Razz, “After all, you’re doing it right now if what you’ve said about your, ah, ‘handicap’ is true.”

“Hmm, good point; never did think about it that way,” replied Razz, realizing that her glamory spell that made her appear like a normal pony and not the dark, externally corrupted figure she truly was essentially made her reek of dark magic as she was incapable of doing any light magic unless in her human form. “And that explains why I never could detect Corner Shot as the third Scion even though she had limited dark magic channeling herself - quite significant, given she’s a pegasus.”

“And what about the fourth?” asked Lockbox, concerned. “I honestly hope they never surface for obvious reasons, but it just seems weird that the three Scions - you, me, and Corner - all pop up on the scene within a few weeks of each other, but the fourth never shows.”

“That’s what I’m worried about - something’s off. We’re missing something but this coronation business is just taking up so much attention that without any solid leads to whom could be another Sombra descendant, we just can’t spare the resources to go on a wild goose chase. Once Sunset is crowned and her family goes home, then I can put something together. As it stands, we just have to hope nothing goes wrong. Equestria really needs this to go smoothly.”

From this high up, Fluttershy mused, she could see practically the whole of the central part of Equestria. She gave a whimsical smile that would have made her father proud: for all his tales of his tours and travels around the world, he’d never been to another reality before, much less spent extensive time with the royalty and nobility of said place.

She then frowned, recalling the brief mental trauma she had when coming across her father’s bizarre counterpart – and the unbridled chaos that went with that. Her own counterpart had assured her she’d talked with that Discord and that wouldn’t happen again, nor would Fluttershy’s father remember what happened, but…

She turned back from her view, spoiled by her memories. Besides, she was being counted on right now for something else, and she had to focus on that right now. It sucked, but nominally, she was the adult here.

Well, as far as normal humans are concerned, she mused.

She looked at the others in the room. Twilight, as seemed to be the norm over the past day, was ready to pounce on anything that could be a literal or metaphorical threat to her sister. To a lesser degree, so was Aria, though thankfully she wasn’t currently armed. Rounding out the quintet in the room was Rarity, drinking from a cup of tea and looking completely composed, though Fluttershy had known her friend long enough to see the worry in her eyes.

She took a breath, then looked at the owner of the room, as well as the purpose for which they were all present. “Look, Sunny….”

Seated across from her, the look on her face unreadable, Sunset shook her head. “No. We’re not going through this. Not now, especially when we have to get ready in a couple of hours for this. I’ve already been through the emotional roller coaster over the past day and I would really not like to go through it again, Flutters.”

“This isn’t an intervention.”

“Look, I just….” Sunset fell unnaturally quiet and contemplative, staring into space with the uncomfortable thousand-yard stare.

“Do we have to do this now?” Twilight asked them all. “We have probably one of the most important events in our lives about to happen in a few minutes and it’s gotta be even more stressful for her!”

Aria went and patted her cousin on the shoulder. “Twily...take it from me. This is just going to fester if we don’t resolve it, okay? Do you remember the time in Eighth Grade when I accidentally broke your science experiment and I didn’t want to admit it and I let it fester to the point that I was feeling more guilt than I actually should have if I’d just come clean?”

“Yeah, and you weren’t happy about when Dad grounded you for not fessing up earlier,” Twilight admitted.

Sunset blinked. “Sounds like I missed some really interesting times in your lives.”

“Stop sidetracking,” Aria and Twilight said to her at the same time.

“Girls, I don’t think that’s quite helping,” Rarity admonished.

“Rares, when have I ever been the touchy-feely type?” Aria asked in return.

“Not the point, dear,” Rarity stated. “Besides, if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here, would you?”

“Well, Sunny’s family,” Aria defended. In response, Rarity gave a self-satisfied smirk, and the pigtailed girl rolled her eyes in response.

That done, Rarity turned her attention back to Sunset. “Sunset, dear, I understand what you’re going through, I truly do. But it’s clear that––”

“Is it?” Sunset asked. “I mean, I’ve never had these feelings about anyone my own gender before. It’s not like I’ve repressed them or anything; I mean, I’ve been hit on by tons of other girls before, and I could have easily had my way with any of them back when I was as, ahem, ‘well-behaved’ as Flash––”

“Let’s not go there, sis,” Twilight pled.

Sunset nodded. “But my point is, up to just a few weeks back, things were perfectly normal between me and Pinkie. And now? I just don’t know. I really don’t know anymore.”

“Sunny, I told you before, there’s no shame in being a carpet muncher or a switch hitter,” Aria commented. “But being a cocktease to her is just bullshit, okay?”

Nice peptalk,” Twilight drolled.

“I’ll be sure to buy her a Hallmark card later, Twily.”

“I think what Aria was – rather inelegantly – trying to say is that things between Pinkie and yourself were anything but normal before this,” Rarity said, looking at Sunset seriously, but not unkindly. “In a way, I suppose I am just as much to blame for how things turned out between you two. I saw how one-sided your blooming relationship was, but decided not to intervene because I believed true love would prevail. Perhaps I still have a bit more growing to do than I thought.”

Rarity then went to her friend and took her hands in hers. “Regardless of that, Sunset...I think it’s fair to say that no matter what, we have your back. We are your friends, and we will support you. It may be pleasure, it may be pain. But we won’t let you suffer alone.”

The look in Sunset’s eyes was bleak. “It’s not me I’m worried about.”

Meanwhile, in another room, Rainbow Dash was about to lose her mind. “I hate this shit, you know? I mean, I got both your backs, but you’re both acting so terarded!”

Sonata rolled her eyes and counted off her fingers. “First, Rainbow, the word is retarded, not terarded. Secondly, that’s kinda offensive, you know. And third, that’s not helping in the least, okay?”

The athlete huffed and blew her bangs out of her eyes. “Yeah, whatevs.”

“Wow, and Ah thought Ah was gonna be the most obstinate person here,” Applejack commented. “But if you’re just gonna be an ass, Rainbow, don’t help, okay?”

“Oh, blow it out your ass, AJ.” That earned a glare from Applejack.

“Enough, both of you! We’re not here to solve your issues,” Octavia told them. She then turned to Adagio. “Dagi, if they do this shit again, toss them both out on their asses.”

“Can I pretend they’re both Razzbitchy Bitchyl?” she said with a tone of slight glee.

“Dagi, not now, okay?”

Seated on the bed, hugging a pillow like a lifeline and looking like a million miles of bad road, Pinkie looked at her friends. “Please, don’t do this. Not now.”

Adagio, Applejack and Rainbow quickly blurted hasty apologies and quickly shut up.

“Soni? Could you go get me another tub of that Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness ice cream that the kitchens have?” Pinkie asked.

In response, Sonata pointed to the six demolished tubs of ice cream that sat by the trash can on the other side of the room. “Fuck no! I’m not even going to ask where the hell you’re putting it all! Plus, the kitchen staff is already complaining that you ate the remaining weekly stock of chocolate and fudge ripple ice cream – I’m brave enough to face being outgunned, but not enough to face the head chef!”

“I figured if I ate enough, I could put myself in a coma and not have to go to this thing. I...I don’t want to be a further embarrassment for Sunny.”

“You’re not an embarrassment,” Octavia assured her. “Hell, look who she keeps company with,” the musician said, gesturing to the others around the room.

“Really funny, Tavi,” Rainbow grunted.

Octavia ignored her and instead hugged Pinkie. “Do you really think she thinks that about you?”

“I...I don’t know. I just think that maybe it would be better if I didn’t go.”

Sonata looked at Pinkie. “Pinkie, if you don’t go, I don’t think it would hurt Sunny...but I’ll tell you this much: I’ll be disappointed in you.” Pinkie looked up as if she’d been slapped, and the youngest triplet noted she got her friend’s attention. “Pinkie, you say that you love Sunny. I don’t know a damn thing about relationships at all, but seeing my aunt and uncle? They’ve always supported each other whether good or bad. That’s what someone who really loves another does. Even if it hurts, you’re supposed to be there for them.”

“I just...I’m already clearly a horrible girlfriend and maybe she’d be better off with Rose….” Pinkie murmured.

“Do you really believe that?” Adagio asked her.

“Yes. I mean, no! I….” Pinkie blinked away tears that were starting to form in her eyes. “I...I just don’t know anymore. I know that I’m tied to her forever now. But that doesn’t mean that we’ll be together.”

Before Octavia could say anything else, there was a knock at the door, and in came a group of Hooves. “Forgive me, ladies,” the apparently senior one stated, “but it is time to prepare for dressing for the occasion. We have others out there awaiting to see you to your rooms to assist you in preparations.”

“Well, I guess that’s that,” Octavia said, rising from the bed. “I think we all need to get ready.”

“Yeah,” Adagio agreed. “We’ll save you a spot, Pinkie.” With that, the others filed out of the room, with the lone exception of Rainbow.

Pinkie knew the athlete still had something to say. “Yes?” she asked.

Rainbow paused for a second, as if to really think her words through. “I know this is going to sound odd, coming from me, but...whether or not Sunny wants you? Right now, she needs you. And speaking for myself? If I were ever in the situation that you and she are, I would want Soarin’ there when I needed him the most. She might not be the best at admitting it, but I think if you were to ask her? She would admit she needs you there, too.”

Taking a drink from her tea, Velvet sat in Princess Celestia’s room as the parents talked. “You know, I remember when Shiny was going through this in his high school years. I was so sure that by the time he and Cady figured out how they felt about each other, I’d be able to dispense parental wisdom with the best of them. And now, seeing Sunny go through all this?” She groaned. “This is just a hell of a mess.”

“And here I thought Tavi or Dagi would be the ones with the social problems,” Night commented sardonically.

“Don’t remind me about that,” Velvet growled. “It’s bad enough that I feel like my degree is worthless nowadays, but I don’t need to add parental inadequacy to that.”

“You’re not the only one that feels that way,” the alicorn reminded her. “That’s a road I’ve well traveled myself. And in any case, I would think we would be best served by discussing what our daughter has in mind for her future.”

“For her immediate future, or further off?” Velvet asked. “I mean, parental issues aside, I believe Sunset’s personal life is hers, so long as it doesn’t result in anyone being hurt. And as for college, as much as she’s improved her grades, she’s not going to be headed off to an Ivy League college anytime soon.”

“Well, I might be biased, but I think she’ll be able to get into Canterlot State,” Night said with a slight grin. “Besides, I think they’d be more than happy to have the daughter of their most valued professor attend.”

“Well, she already has a slot available for her at Royal Canterlot University,” Celestia commented. “She and I parted ways before she could attend, but I’ve had a slot remain open for her – for all my students ever since I founded the university five hundred years ago.” She took a second sip from her cup, and then stated, “But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the growing ties between Sunset and her Swordbearer.”

“Swordbearer?” Velvet asked. “When I went to speak to Pinkie earlier, she mentioned that term, but I’d written it off as some teenager thing.”

“It’s far from that,” Celestia stated, then launching into a full explanation of what a Swordbearer was and what it portended, the fates of the lost Swordbearers and the status of the sole known one.

When she was done, Velvet and Night looked at each other with brief horror before turning back to their fellow parent. “And you’re saying Pinkie doesn’t have a say in this?”

“I wish I could spare her this, just as I wished I could spare Shining his fate. When Twilight’s Swordbearer appears, I will likely want the same for her or him as well – and I know that will be just as futile. And I need not tell you how my sister feels about her lost fiancé, or my own lost Swordbearer, who was like a father to me. As for my mother’s own, we’re not even sure if The Megan was real, and my mother was never forthcoming about that.”

Night’s face was ashen. “I...I wouldn’t even know what to tell Carrot and Cup about this. We’ve struggled on whether we can even tell them everything, given how close Pinkie and Sunset were before all this. And from the last time I talked to them, they’re still dealing with Pinkie’s personal revelations to her. This...this would just break them.”

“Nonetheless, from what I gather, her power was already growing substantially as a result of her status as a human Element Bearer, and now, as a Swordbearer...she may as well be the closest thing you humans have to an alicorn.” The solar alicorn paused for thought, then added, “Of course, that still doesn’t mean that she’s not capable of the typical foibles and mistakes others make. After all, she is only pony. Er, human, sorry.

“Ultimately, we will need to be there for both of them. I don’t know how much my duties here will allow me to cross over to your world and help, but I will always make myself available when I can. I love my child too much to do otherwise, and I would be remiss if I didn’t have concerns about Miss Pie as well.”

There was a knock at the door, and one of the pages came in. “Your Majesty, it is time to prepare for the event.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Please have the Hooves come in.” Looking at her fellow parents, she said, “This will be the most important time for me and a moment I never thought I would experience. So, please forgive me if I get a little misty-eyed today.”

“All things considered, you love Sunny as much as we do,” Night told her, “and she is your daughter as much as she is ours. So I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”

“I know I will,” Velvet said, and her smile was enough to set Celestia at ease. She never would have expected to have co-parental duties with any others, much less beings of another species from another reality. But looking at Sunset’s human parents, the alicorn knew she couldn’t see it any other way now.

Taking in a deep breath, Octavia allowed herself to relax in the chair as the pair of Hooves worked delicately on styling her hair. She watched them work in the reflection of the mirror, wondering whether this sort of pampering was going to become a regular part of her life, assuming her music career was going to take off as much as everyone seemed to think.

The thought was a welcome distraction from… well, everything that was going on of late. Her cousin Sunset was being coronated. Her circle of friends were fracturing at the seams with everyone seeming to have a different position on the incident between Sunset and Pinkie. And that wasn’t even getting into any of her own issues. Like, for instance, what I’m going to say to Blueblood when we inevitably meet at this coronation.

“Your mane has gotten quite long on the sides, milady,” one of the Hooves tending to her said. “Would you mind if we trimmed it a little?”

“Not at all,” Octavia said, closing her eyes and taking another deep breath as she listened to the snip snip of the Hooves going about their work.

I’m just not going to worry about it, Octavia decided then. I’m going to endure this long, stressful day for Sunset’s sake and then we’re all going to go back home where there will be a return to some modicum of normalcy.

Snip snip.

Of course, nothing was truly normal anymore. Not after everything they’d all been through. Still, Octavia would be damned if she let the insanity of their lives keep her from enjoying it to the best of her abilities.

Snip snip.

Maybe she’d talk to Lyra when they went back home. It would be good to have a proper jam session with Lyra, Fluttershy and herself. No stress or worrying about the future. Just good music and good friends.

Snip.





Snip.








Snip.








Something wasn’t right. The Hooves working on her hair no longer seemed to be cutting it. They were just… snipping their scissors in place. Slowly, almost melodically….

Octavia’s eyes shot open, and the pair of Hooves who had been styling her hair were gone. In their place was… herself. Only it wasn’t really her; every one of her features was just… off. The smile was hers, but it was too wide. The eyes were hers, but they were wild and full of hate. Her doppleganger was holding the scissors in her hands, idly opening and closing them. Snip… snip.

“Long time, huh Tavi?” Melody said as she opened the scissors and brought them around to her throat.

Octavia screamed, leaping out of the chair in blind terror. The open scissors missed her throat, but Octavia felt them slice along her cheek and into her right ear. Octavia threw her back into the make-up mirror, pressing up against the wall as she instinctively tried to keep the chair she’d just been sitting in between her and the smirking Melody.

“You’re not real…” Octavia muttered feverishly to herself. “You’re not real.”

Melody merely held up the scissors in her hand, the blade dripping with some of Octavia’s blood. Octavia reached up to where she’d been cut and hissed in pain. Sure enough, there was blood on her fingers when she pulled them away.

“Seems pretty real to me,” Melody said, bringing the scissors to her mouth and slowly, sensually, licking away the blood.

Octavia bolted for the door. She didn’t even see whether Melody had moved to intercept her. Either way, Octavia made it and threw the door open. She sprinted down the hall as fast as she could, screaming as loud as she could.

GUARDS! HELP! THERE’S A MANIAC IN THE CASTLE!

Octavia reached the end of the hallway without seeing anyone, and turned the corner. The next hallway was just as empty. Octavia called out for help again, but received no answer. I’m alone, Octavia realized. Except that wasn’t strictly true.

Snip snip.

The sound seemed to come from down the hallway where she came from, so Octavia kept running forward. She quickly looked inside every room she passed, hoping to find someone, anyone to help her.

Eventually, Octavia reached the ballroom where the coronation reception was to be held. There was not a living soul inside.

Snip snip. Snip snip.

The sound was getting faster now, and Octavia couldn’t tell whether it was coming from behind her or in front of her this time.

I’ve gotta get outside, Octavia realized as the snips grew ever more frantic. So Octavia exited through the far door of the ballroom, once again running through a maze of empty hallways and corridors. But something didn’t add up. None of the halls Octavia was running through matched what she remembered of the castle’s layout. Was it… changing?

Snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip.

Looking over her shoulder, Octavia saw Melody down the hallway in the distance, scissors in hand, loping towards her like a rabid animal. Tears streaming down her face now, Octavia could do nothing but continue to run through the maze of endless, identical corridors and hallways with no exit in sight.

You can’t get out, you know! Melody’s voice wasn’t coming from behind her, but within her. Where do you think we are right now?

Octavia rounded a corner and saw Melody waiting for her at the other end of it, her bloody hair hanging limply in front of her face.

“Let me out, please!” Octavia begged.

No. It’s your turn to feel what’s it’s like to be trapped while a complete stranger gets to use what’s rightfully yours!” Melody intoned. Octavia caught a glimpse of something lying in a heap on the floor just behind the psycho. It looked like a slab of meat from a butcher’s shop left bleeding on the floor. Then Octavia saw the red and yellow hair and wailed.

“Milady?”

The voice was distant, but it wasn’t Melody, so Octavia clung to it like a life preserver.

“Milady? Can you hear me?”


Octavia opened her eyes and found herself lying on the floor of the dressing room. The pair of Hooves who had been styling her hair were standing over her, looking at her with concern in their eyes.

“There you are! Milady, are you alright?”

“Wha… what happened?” Octavia asked, dazed.

“Not quite sure,” the Hoof who was primarily speaking to her answered. “One moment we were styling your hair, and the next you suddenly jumped out of your seat, screaming before you passed out.”

“Oh God…” Octavia whimpered, feeling fresh tears coming whether she wanted them to or not.

“Do you mind my asking: what exactly made you react like that? Is it something we did?”

Octavia wasn’t sure what she was going to tell these ponies. Dammit, just when I thought I’d been making progress with my damn disorder!

“I think I know what happened,” the Hoof who had been quiet up to this point said. “I know a traumatic flashback when I see one. You’re the human who was nearly whisked away by that kitsune prince, aren’t you?”

Octavia decided to take that ball and run with it. “Yes, I am. Guess I still haven’t quite recovered from that one.”

The Hoof put a sympathetic foreleg over her shoulder. “Poor thing, that must have been terrible. But you’re safe now. You know that, right?”

No.

“Yes.”

The Hoof gave her an encouraging smile. “Alright, then. I’ll summon a doctor for you.”

“No, it’s okay. I’m fine, really.” Another useless pony psychiatrist was the last thing she needed right now.

“But you’re bleeding.”

Octavia reached up and touched the right side of her face gently. A stinging sensation made her wince, and she pulled her hand a way to see a few drops of blood on her fingers. Octavia went pale. No… it can’t be… she can’t be….

“I… may have accidentally cut you with the scissors when you suddenly jumped up,” the first Hoof said, rubbing her neck sheepishly. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Wasn’t your fault,” Octavia replied.

“Well, let’s get you cleaned up. There should be a first aid kit around here somewhere,” the other Hoof said as she made her way to the other side of the room and started rummaging around. “Then we need to get back to doing your mane. Wouldn’t want you to be late for your cousin’s coronation, after all!”

“Yes, can’t have that,” Octavia said, absentmindedly touching her cheek around where she’d been cut.

Now that the adrenaline was starting to wear off, Octavia could feel the sting of her wound far more sharply than she had a moment ago. The damn thing itched like a mother, and it was all Octavia could do not to scratch at the wound as the itching spread.

Snip snip.

Octavia looked up to see the Hoof who had been cutting her hair, still holding the scissors and absentmindedly giving them a few snips. The two of them locked eyes, and the Hoof had a mind to look thoroughly embarrassed.

“I don’t think I’ll be wanting my hair trimmed, after all,” Octavia said.

The Hoof smiled awkwardly and said, “Yeah, that’s fair.”

Author's Note:

As always, remember to tip your server!

And update the TV tropes page!

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