• Published 11th Sep 2019
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Twilight's Nightmare - Nightsclaw

Twilight in her most desperate of moments, issues a cry for help. She was not expecting the Nightmare to be her saviour.

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CH 11 Sunny Days

Princess Celestia, the regal, all-knowing, all-powerful ruler of the Sun, sat in her throne, or at least her body did. Her mind was elsewhere, only occasionally paying attention. Her Mask was handling the annoying nobles, following the rules it was given, acting the picture-perfect ruler. Celestia had at least an hour before they would even get to the point, so she would use her time more productively.

Within her mental-space, a sunlit garden, Celestia sat on a cushion trying to relax. The warm scents of her favourite flowers mixing perfectly with both her tea and cake. The sound of a gentle stream and wind chimes added to the peaceful atmosphere. She sat before two tables, a white marble pillar off to one side and a glass display case to the other.

“And she said, ‘if we have to banish Twilight, thou too will find thyself upon the moon!’” Celestia continued to Philomena her pet phoenix, who nodded along in all the right places.

Celestia took another bite from her cake, her jaw still twinging. Why did you have to strike me with such force, Luna? she thought. Even here, despite it being long healed, the blow’s aftermath could still be felt. Yes, she had insisted that she not go alone to investigate the magical pulse. Even having gone so far as to use her own raw magical force to overpower and redirect Luna’s first teleport.

Celestia chased the cake with a sip of tea, looking up from her cup to the mare she was sharing tea with. A mare that looked almost like her; If it was not for the burning mane and slit eyes. Daybreaker, her war-mind sat opposite, enjoying her own tea seemingly relaxed despite the golden barbed collar chaining her to a marble pillar in the centre of the garden.

“She would not be so disobedient if you would just let me break her,” Daybreaker said, a fanged smile on her muzzle.

Celestia levelled a cold stare. Mentally cursing Starlight's meddling that seemed to add a little spice to her war-minds personality. “We love our sister, and you would do well to remember that.” Celesta’s words caused the collar to glow brightly.

Daybreaker grit her teeth, bowing her head “Yes, your Radiance.”

Celestia’s gaze shifted, becoming warm and welcoming. “There, is that not better?” she smiled benevolently, “The sooner you give up on the Daybreaker persona, the sooner we can go back to normal.”

Still with head lowered, “I will behave your Radiance, Please allow me to remain as I am.”

Celestia glanced over to the stone archway at the far side of the garden. Within it, the throne room could be seen. Her Mask was still sitting there with perfect attentive smile number four, listening to that brain dead waste of space. Frustration flickered on her face for a moment.

“I’m the one that’s meant to want to set everything on fire,” Daybraker said.

“You know this is not what I intended for the nobility,” Celestia responded.

Daybraker gave Celestia a pointed look. “Then fix it, you have the power, you have the weight of law and even just cause for half of them if your agents can be trusted.”

“Equestria can not tolerate the scale of disruption that would cause, not now at least.”

With a hoof, Daybraker lifted the Twilight piece from the game board on the second table. “And so it comes back to your missing faithful student.” She turned it to face Celestia, “Will I be required to be your sword again?”

Celestia’s wings slumped, “I hope that will not be necessary, I have faith that she will be at least…” Her voice hitched, “salvageable.”

She genuinely cared for Twilight and feared for what state she would find her in. She knew Twilight was still too fragile, not used to the pain or sacrifices that might be required of her. Unprepared for the true torments that could be inflicted upon one that could not die. If only I had merely another hundred years to prepare everything.

Daybreakers muzzle twitched, but it was clear to Celestia, she dare not laugh. “And if the Nightmare is free or Twilight’s Seals are broken?”

Dread and pre-emptive regret bit at Celestia's heart at the thought of what might be required. “Then you will do what I command and nothing more.” her voice was cold as the void.

“Yes, your Radiance.”

Celestia’s eyes shimmered with liquid as she turned her gaze to look at the display case. Row upon row of game pieces, each perfectly caved by her own hoof into the likeness of her friends, foes and favoured tools.

Her golden magic embraced the little figure of a yellow unicorn with a two-toned mane and sun based cutie mark. Drawing it closer, she held it before her face.

Daybreaker draped a wing over Celestia’s back “Our duty, our ponies come first… everything else is secondary.”

Celestia nodded and closed her eyes as she leant into Daybreaker’s warmth. She could do nothing to change the past, only trot forward, keep placing one hoof after another upon the endless path.

“As always, we will do what we must. When you need it, my strength is here for you,” Daybreaker said, nuzzling Celestia.

Seeking comfort in the embrace of my tool of war now, Celestia thought almost laughing. She would need to spend more time investigating how much her war-mind had changed after being exposed to Luna’s chaotic domain.

A Flash of gold dragged her away from her introspection, a report appeared on the table. Celestia glanced up at the archway. Raven had just passed her some paperwork and her Mask thought it worthy enough to spend the not-insignificant amount of magic to send physical objects here.

A flick of her horn and both the Sunset and Twilight figures were placed on the game board. She slowly walked towards the table as Daybreaker returned to her tea.

Celestia looked down at the report, minor theft. The only reason such a trivial report would get sent here was the fact it came from Ponyville. She leafed through them, every item held in her golden magic. Over the past two days, items had been stolen and replaced with their exact value in bits. The thing that marked the report as urgent was the additional information from her agents. Pinky Pie had been searching for a new pony and had been unable to find them.

Her golden magic pulled one of the pieces of evidence, a neatly written receipt, something about it was familiar, she narrowed her eyes at the horn writing. It could not be.

With an effort of will and a lit horn, she reached out to the physical world. A bright flash and a set of drawers from her private chambers were dragged into her mental space.

Taking a deep breath to help recover from the exertion, she opened a drawer. She pulled out some of Twilight's old school projects and placed it next to the evidence, her eyes flit back and forth between the two. This horn writing was almost identical to Twilights before she was sealed. It was full of little hints of joy and eagerness, something that was missing from her later writings.

A soft smile crossed her muzzle. It was just like Twilight to pay for the things she was stealing. She shook her head; Twilight still had more than a few lessons she needed to learn.

She would be taking a trip to Ponyville.

Flying through the air was always a liberating feeling. Celestia could not keep a grin from her muzzle; she was going to find Twilight and everything was going to be alright. If it was not for the fact that she was only concealed by an invisibility spell, she might have let out a happy shout.

Currently, as far as anypony could tell she was still in the throne room holding court. It had taken a lot of promised treats to get Philomena to stay there to act as an anchor for the illusion spell. She could feel her Mask directing the fake the same way it would control her body when she retreated from it.

Daybreaker interrupted her. Do you know what you will do?

“I will find her of course,” Celestia answered out loud.

It is strange how she has not contacted anypony, not her friends, not even you? Daybreaker’s thoughts responded. Celestia could feel Daybreaker’s suspicions. She was always thinking of possible threats, dangers, and how to end them as efficiently, as permanently as possible.

Celestia kept herself below sonic rainboom speeds despite the sudden need to already be there.

Arriving just out of sight of the town, she transformed herself. The old magic wrapped around her, diminishing her form to that of an ordinary unicorn white of coat and pink of mane.

To Celestia the world suddenly seemed enormous, the once almost toyed sized world replaced with a full-sized one. Nodding to herself, she cantered into the town, she would have her answers, she would find her Faithful Student.

Ponyville had changed over the years yet somehow kept the small-town atmosphere from its founding by the Apple family, despite now having Twilight’s Castle. Her ponies going about their lives. If only she could come out and just watch more often. She took a breath of air, full of the smells of the town with none of the refinements of the rarefied scents of Canterlot. Places like this just seem more honest, more real.

Making her way towards the centre of town she could see two of the Elements, Applejack at the market selling her family’s apples. Rainbow Dash sleeping on a cloud.

This town, placed right next to the monster-infested Everfree, is almost defenceless, Daybreaker cut in.

You know why this is, Celestia responded.

Are you intending on using it to test another then?

All six of the elements were strengthened here, it has proved a useful place to forge friendships and temper heros.

Celestia trotted around the town, exchanging greetings, listing to the conversations in the background. After such a long life, she did not even need to think about small talk. Even without her Mask’s aid, it was still as automatic as breathing.

For each pony she encountered, she could see dozens of their ancestors in her mind's eye. She still had a full list detailing all the bloodlines and their traits stored in her mental garden. Part of her mind puzzled over who she would pair with who to breed the most powerful ponies.

At least she had gotten Cadence to agree to that if all things were equal in parental love, then the pairing that would provide the strongest foals would be promoted. In only a few generations, she could have most of the ancient warrior lines back and ready for service.

Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of speculation about Twilight, mostly discussion about if she was really dead or not. It was times like this that she really disliked the laws she passed that allowed the press to have the freedom to print such lies.

She asked about the stolen items and found out more things had gone missing today. Her mind simply absorbed the information she was given, noted who had said it and moved on. It seemed the disappearing items were starting to become an attraction, a puzzle. A small cash prize was available if somepony could figure out how it was being done. Celestia kept her magical sense alert seeking this so-called undetectable thief.

Being out here amongst her ponies under her warming sun felt like a holiday. Even with everything that had happened, merely being away from the court was a welcome breath of fresh air.

She used her horn for levitation to hide that she was scanning all the ponies she could. None of the locals had any signs of any mental manipulation or external control. Thankfully she found no traces of dark magic.

Celestia exchanged a few bits for a sandwich before trotting off to the next merchant on her list. Celestia noticed she was nodding her head to an ancient turn that passed through her mind.

The world around her faded, being replaced by her recollections of a simpler time. Glancing to the side, she looked at a beautiful field of flowers, a foal Luna running through them calling for her sister to come and play.

She could feel the soft smile cross her muzzle as her voice traded polite greetings with whomever she was talking to. She had lost so much over the years, but she had gained many treasured memories. She had to be careful not to lose herself in them too often.

She had her sister back, she would find and save Twilight. Celestia let herself enjoy the song echoing in her mind from the past, a song she would probably never hear in reality ever again.

Celestia… you are not just remembering that song. Daybreakers thoughts were impatient.

The daydream broke, rapidly she refocused her attention, ears swiveling, locking onto the source of the song. It was real, somepony was singing one of her mother’s songs. A song that no pony except herself and Luna had any chance of knowing. Anger, confusion, joy and even hope clashed within her. Mother? A part of her mind whispered. No, the voice is wrong.

Looking around, she could see nopony singing, nopony where the sound was coming from. She had to find them, she had to know how they knew that song.

There, Celestia could feel Daybreker direct her eyes, focusing a bit of her Alicon magic, enhancing them.

A small lavender unicorn filly, the spitting image of Twilight from all those years ago was happily trotting along singing the song, concealed by a very restricted spell. A particular Notice-Me-Not spell and only one pony has seen then book it was in in the past two hundred years.

'Twilight' she wanted to call out, but Daybreaker kept her muzzle closed letting her reconsider.

Celestia just stood there for a moment tracking the filly with her eyes. She had almost forgotten to breathe. That song and now a filly Twilight, it took her experienced mind whole seconds to come to terms with it and decide what to do.

Twilight was wearing a stained slightly burnt helmet and overloaded saddlebags. Levitating a pie and a bag of carrots next to herself, dancing in a happy patten in the air, held in the familiar magenta aura.

Her hooves moved her body closer before she knew what was happening. She had found Twilight, the little inconsistency about age seemingly inconsequential.

Look at her mark Daybreaker seemed to growl in her mind.

Celestia paused and did so, her war-mind was always more observant than herself, she had crafted her that way after all. It took but a moment to see the smaller stars were missing but other than that she was seeing the joyful little filly from all those years ago. The possible implications of Twilight’s mark being different and what it could mean for the Elements of Harmony she discarded for now.

“Hello there, little one,” Celestia said, moving up to the filly and stopping at a polite distance.

“Hello,” the filly responded before seeming to freeze. She quickly looked behind herself then back at Celestia. “You can see me?”

The filly slowly moved the apple pie behind her as if to protect it from Celestia. She could feel a giggle wanting to escape, Twilight was protecting a pie from her, it was not even a cake.

Celestia nodded, “Yes I can, impressive spell work for one so young, who’s your teacher?”

Something flickered in the filly’s eyes, a hint of worry mixed with suspicion and calculation.

Be Careful, Daybraker added, drawing her attention to the many partial spell patterns hiding in the glow of the filly's horn. A casting method only customarily used by duelists or assassins.

She could feel Daybreaker readying herself. Considering if spells would even be needed or if a simple strike to the horn, empowered by earthpony strength, would be enough to end the threat.

The ever so slight narrowing of the filly’s eyes let Celestia know that her observation had not gone unnoticed. Impressive observational skills.

The filly shivered for a moment. Can she sense what Daybreaker is planning? Celestia thought.

“Are you all right?” She asked, lowering herself and softening her voice.

“I should not talk to strangers,” The filly said, taking half a step back.

“My name is Sunny Days. Is your’s Twilight?”

The filly did an excellent job hiding her reaction. Still, you don’t get through thousands of years of politics without getting very, very good at reading ponies. Every slight movement, each flick of the eyes, change in breathing all analysed with her lifetime’s worth of experience. The filly clearly was not called Twilight, but she knew her and knew her well.

“But you know her?” Celestia said, trying to sound calm, she could feel hope building in her chest.

Celestia studied the filly’s reaction. The slight change in posture, movement of her ears, tightening of expression. Seemingly focusing her senses on Celestia and less on possible escape routes, an added edge of fear but not for herself. She is very protective of Twilight and is not grieving. Celestia thought.

So Twilight lives, how do we find her now? Daybreaker thought to her.

They both looked at each other, neither saying or doing anything, the long moment stretched. Celestia blinked, and suddenly there was a Pink Pony behind the filly. It took only a moment for Celestia to recognize Pinky Pie.

“Hi, Princess!” Pinky said bouncing with her usually joy.

The filly jumped, spinning around as if expecting an attack. Celestia got ready to shield Pinky in case the filly let any spells fly.

“Good morning, Pinky,” Celestia said, letting none of her preparations modify her friendly tone.

“Have you seen the new pony? I’ve been looking for days, but they are really, really, really good at hide and seek,” Pinky said

“Sorry I’m not very good at hide and seek,” Celestia said, looking straight at the filly, Pinky did not seem to notice.

“No? Too bad, oh have a cupcake and another one for your imaginary friend.” Pinky pulled two cupcakes out of her mane, the first was offered to Celestia which she accepted in her golden magic. The cupcake giving her a non-threatening reason to have her horn lit.

Pinky forced the second cupcake into the filly’s mouth. She seemed to panic for a moment then started to chew the cupcake, a slight smile forming. Celestia took a dainty bite of her own, yes it was a good cupcake.

“Bye, got to go find the new pony and prep a happy you’re still alive party,” Pinky said.

Pinky leaned closer to the filly and whispered too quietly for Celestia to make out what was said over the sounds of the town.

Pinky Pie winked before she bounced off with her usual disregard for the rules of reality. Thank you, Pinky. Celestia thought with gratitude.

“What?” The filly said after finishing her cupcake, seeming somewhat dazed.

Celestia hid a soft giggle behind her hoof “Pinky makes wonderful cupcakes does she not?”

The filly turned back to face her and slowly nodded, finishing her treat, “Yes but who… what is she?”

Celestia could not help but laugh, “It’s just Pinky being Pinky, or that’s what my Faithful Student would say.”

“So you’re a teacher? What do you teach?”

“Oh, a little bit of this, a little bit of that but mostly magic and history.”

She could see the filly’s body language softening, the fear fading. It almost seemed like she would move closer, a little fidget that Twilight used to do before moving to hug or nuzzle her.

Celestia warmly smiled, it was almost like she was in the past, talking to her faithful student. Was it possible her seal broke, and she was reverted to the age when it was first applied? Has she forgotten her name?

Celestia subtly shifted her own body hinting to the filly’s instincts that a hug would be accepted, that she would be safe, protected.

Daybreaker took over her magic flash casting a self fortification spell. A blinding flash and wave of magic assaulted her senses, leaving her unable to perceive anything for a fraction of a second. When she could see again, the filly was gone.

Her War-Mind was unhappy but sounded respectful in her mind. She formed the partial spell patterns into a teleport and somehow shaped the remaining fragments into a disorientation pulse. If we were an average unicorn, we would be laying on the ground now defenceless for a least a minute.

“She is every bit as impressive as Twilight was, if not more so at that age,” Celestia said.

Reaching out with her connection to the sun, Celestia looked down from that lofty vantage point. Finding her target took no time at all. Anything her sunlight touched, she could detect. The filly was outside Pinky’s home. Celestia trotted that way.

With her scrying she noted the filly constructing an extraordinarily complicated but low powered spell. It looked like one of Twilight’s creations, one of the spells she invented for her lab work.

So she is either Twilight or was taught by her. Daybreaker added

Why do you think that? Celestia responded. Despite agreeing, she wanted to know her War-Mind’s reasoning.

Who else would use such a complicated spell where a simple awareness enhancer would be superior to avoid us?

Moving to cut off the filly’s trip, she kept watching via her scrying. The filly had just ducked into an alley out of direct sunlight. Did she somehow sense the scrying? Celestia increased her pace just in case.

She could feel the eyes of her ponies on her, one does not gallop around without reason. At least with it being Ponyville, only a few ponies reacted with anything other than mild curiosity.

Jumping over a pony that suddenly stepped out into her path, she got to the alleyway. Celestia rounded the corner with haste.

Boom, crackle, zap. A massive flash of light and a scorching ripple of spatial distortion. She could feel arcs of magic dancing across her body. The magic felt wild and undirected, concentrating on her horn’s sensitivity to the arcane, she focused.

It was a powerful teleport effect, with no set destination merely a set of conditions on what sort of locations the caster could arrive at. It would take only a few more moments to decipher the set exit conditions.

A burst of unique, powerful pegasus magic and the sound of wings let her know that Rainbow Dash had arrived. The pegasus magic scrambling the lingering traces of unicorn magic, denying any chance of tracking the teleport.

“Twilight?” Rainbows Dash’s harsh voice called out before looking at the disguised Celestia.

Celestia shook her head and looked up at Rainbow. She stomped her hooves a few times to rid herself of the now sparking lingering magic. Celestia could feel Daybreaker’s anger at the chance to follow the potential Twilight being lost.

“I’m afraid we both seemed to have just missed her,” Celestia said, keeping her frustration from her tone.

“Who are you, you’re not Twilight,” Rainbow said, pointing a hoof at her.

Celestia bowed her head “Sunny Days, it is nice to meet you, Miss Rainbow Dash, holder of the Element of Loyalty.”

Dash looked around the alleyway “That was Twilight’s Magic, what happened? Why are you looking for Twilight” She demanded, poking Celestia in the chest taking on an aggressive pose.

“I work for Princess Celestia, and I have been asked to try and find her.”

Rainbow narrowed her eyes, suspiciously, “Prove it.”

Rainbow turns up just in time to interfere, something is not right here. Daybreaker added.

Celestia lit her horn, pulling a scroll out of her mental garden, wrapping it with an anti-changeling and illusion spell. She offered it to Rainbow as her mind directed her solar scrying in an ever-widening search patten.

Rainbow snatched the scroll from the air breaking the seal “Blah, Blah, Blah. Royal stuff, hereby granted that, more Blah” She looked up “So you're an investigator working Princess Celestia?”

Celestia nodded, noting that the spells on the scroll did nothing, so she was probably dealing with the real Rainbow.

“So where is Twilight?” Rainbow demanded.

That is the question, she thought. She would have to tell the Elements something. What would be the best move to make?

“First tell me what brought you here?”

Rainbow waved her hoof around. “I saw you galloping like mad then a flash of Twi’s magic.”

Interesting nopony else could see her magic. Did she drop her spell to attract loyalty’s attention? Celestia wondered.

Our prey is cunning, Daybreaker purred.

They either have some control of loyalty or know her very well. Celestia responded.

Is the foal a player or merely a piece?

The latter, I suspect…

Rainbow’s blue foreleg waved in front of Celestia’s muzzle. “Hello, anypony in there?”

Yes, loyalty is very impatient, Celestia thought.

“Yes sorry, Miss Dash, I was considering how best to answer you. For now, know that it is believed Twilight has been hiding here in Ponyville.”

“What! If she here then where is she, why hasn’t she come back to us?”

“We do not know...” Celestia said before being cut off.

“How can you not know…” Rainbow said her hoof pressing into Celestia’s chest.

A slight flexing of her Alicorn power was all it took to give Rainbow pause and lend Celestia’s words an edge of command. “Miss Dash could you gather the rest of the Bearers in the Map-room an hour after sunset please.”

“Sure… we’ll be there, and you better have answers.” Rainbow’s exiting shockwave added even more disruption to the magic.

Celestia closed her eyes as she let out a tired sigh. Today is going to be a long day.

Author's Note:

Hello and thank you for reading.

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