• 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 19 Alicorn Lessons

Waking from her three hours, spell enforced, sleep Cadance was wide awake. The familiar restless feeling drove her to seek the skies. Nuzzling her still soundly asleep Shining, she quietly left the room. Lifting part of her weight with her pegasus magic leaving her hooves nearly silent. She was only going for an early morning flight, it would not do to wake anypony else up.

Silently she made her way to the kitchen on her way out.

Sudden motion startled her; Luna’s lesson crashed back in her mind. Her body tensed, ready to leap away and lash out if her attacker followed.

“Good morning Aunty Cadance,” Star said happily, a plate of pancakes in a magenta aura. “Hungry?”

Cadance restrained herself, the only sign that she almost reacted to a little foal as if she was an assassin, was the twitch of her wings.

She smiled warmly. She made me breakfast, how adorable. “Good morning, Little Star.” She breathed in the scent of the food, it was good, almost as good as Celestia’s. “Oh, why thank you. Did you make them yourself.”

Star nodded. “Yep.” Cadance could almost taste the joy coming off of Star. If the pancakes had been horrible lumps of charcoal, she would have eaten them and said they were the nicest ever, just to keep her happy.

“Where is yours? Little fillies need to eat to grow up big and strong,” Cadance said, moving over to the table and taking a seat.

“Right here,” Star said, moving aside her work with her aura.

A painful shiver when through her horn. Placing a hoof to it, she hoped to ease the sensation.

“Do you need a doctor?” Star said, her heart radiating concern. Star is so earnest I don’t even need to use my senses, she's practically yelling her emotions at me.

Waving her hoof and putting on her best smiles, Cadance answered. “It’s nothing, I’m still not as used to this thing as I could be.”

The strange bits of wood and complicated looking scrolls caught her attention. “This is really good, thank you. What are you working on?” She said, indicating the items with her hoof.

“I’m making myself some pets,” Star said with pride.

How do you make pets? She thought, mentally shrugging she just asked. “Making pets?”

“Yes... well more like clever golems, but I’m calling them my pets.” She pointed at the Scrolls in turn. “That one is going to be Owlicious, and that one is going to be Spike.”

Cadance picked up both scrolls in her blue aura. She very carefully did not smile at the mark cut into the table under one of them. She knew something was up when everything else on the table was perfectly lined up, apart from one scroll.

“So Owlicious the owl and Spike, the dog?” Cadance could not help but know the name choice. “You might want to rename Spike, It might get a little confusing when Spike, the dragon your mother hatched, comes back.”

Cadance carefully placed the scrolls back exactly where she had found them. This can be our little secret. She thought with amusement.

“Mummy lays eggs? Does that mean I will lay eggs too?” Star’s expression was a mix of confusion and worry.

Cadance’s laugh was soft and reassuring. “No, no, she just helped him hatch with her magic.”

“Does that make him like my brother?” Star asked with hopeful eyes.

Cadance could feel the yearning, Star very much wanted her to say yes. “You will have to ask your mother,” she said, making a note to bring the subject up with Twilight later.

Star made a note on a scroll. “So is Thorn, all right for a name?”

Nodding Cadance answered. “That should avoid confusion at least.”

Star’s magic set to work clearing more space on the table. “Mummy will be here soon.”

The way she said it, the sudden cheer and certainty. It was as if somepony had just told her. Extending and focusing her senses Cadance could detect nopony else nearby. Was it some sort of spell? She considered.

A wave of panic came from Star, Cadance looked to Star smiling tenderly. “Sorry,” she said in a soothing tone.” She pointed to her horn. “Not the best with this thing, I was trying to work out what spell your mother used to message you.”

“Oh, I have some… something that counts things for me, it let me know when she will be here. In, five, four, three, two, one.” Star teleported disappearing in a burst of light, appearing and hugging a now startled looking and still crystal-covered Twilight.

She was going to say somepony. Cadance was sure of it, she felt Star’s concern when she changed her words but did not have time to tell who she was concerned for.

“Good morning, my Little Star,” Twilight said, wrapping her in loving wings.

Oh, they are just so adorable, I wish I had a camera. Cadance mentally squeed.

“I made everypony breakfast,” Star said, multiple flashes from her horn and both of them were sat at the table, her mother’s plate of Hayburgers in place.

Cadance did her best to hide the discomfort that shot through her horn. What am I going to do? Both of them love their teleports and pockets spells so much. She was really getting annoyed with this problem, it seemed to get worse every year.

“Hayburgers for breakfast?” Cadance asked, looking to Star in slight judgment.

Star nodded, without the slightest hint of doubt at the choice.

Looking to Twilight for a comment, she paused. Twilight’s eyes were fixed upon the hayburgers as if she was a predator, and they were her prey. For a moment, it seemed like her eyes were slightly slitted.

“Twilight?” Cadance’s voice now held a little concern.

Twilight lowered her head and with a savage bite started to devour the food with feral savagery.

The sight of bits of food going flying only to be pulled back buy Twilight's aura, and the red sauce splattering her muzzle was too much. Cadance laughed, having to flap her wings to avoid falling from the chair.

Seeing Star start drawing on a scroll recording Twilight ‘the mighty slayer of Hayburgers’ nearly set her off again. Holding her composure, she leaned over to Star. “Never get between your mother and a hayburger,” Cadance said in her best mock warning tone.

Star nodded, writing on a scroll ‘Note to self, do not transmute anything or anypony I care about into a hayburger.’ Cadance let out a small laugh.

Now that the beast was fed, she tried again. “Twilight?”

Twilight blinked and slowly looked around, confused. Her tongue and aura cleaned her muzzle, still leaving red splotches on her coat and in her mane. “Good morning, Cadance,” she said, sounding much more composed and respectable than her appearance would indicate.

Cadance horn lit and a plane of reflective crystal appeared before Twilight. “You missed a bit,” she said, trying her best not to laugh.

“They were… I just had to have them,” Twilight said, sounding sheepish.

“Well at least with that armour it will be easy to wash off,” Cadance said.

“About that, I would like your help to get rid of it.”

“But it looks pretty,” Star complained, radiating regret.

“Yes, it does have its charms,” Twilight said, looking at her body. “But as with all things, it has its downsides. It is tough to take a proper bath if the water can’t get to your coat.”

“Oh,” Star said.

“What do you need me to do?” Cadance asked.

Star smiled as her mother looked at her. Twilight smiled back as if to say everything will be alright before turning to Cadance.

“I require your aid in smashing this protection. I could ask Applejack, but I doubt she would agree to use enough force. After all, she is not familiar with how durable we Alicorns are.”

Cadance nodded, she knew she was stronger than Applejack, so anticipated no problems.

“Will you be alright on your own for a little bit, my Little Star?” Twilight asked, looking lovingly at Star.

“Yes, Mummy, I can keep working on my pets.” Star pointed with her horn to the neatly laid out pieces of wood and scrolls.

“Very impressive, I look forward to seeing them once your work is complete,” Twilight said before pulling Star into a loving wing hug.

“See you soon,” Cadance said, stealing a hug, If she could eat love, she would not need to eat for the rest of her life from that one hug. Star hugged with everything she had, both physically and emotionally.

“Bye,” Star said, waving a hoof, turning back to her pets, some assembly still required.

The pair of Alicorns made their way out of the kitchen. Cadance waited until they were out of earshot before speaking. “About what you said last night, I want to know what you were talking about.”

Twilight looked over her shoulder at Cadance. “Has your aunty, given you a talk about needing to go through a trial?”

Cadance nodded. “She said I was not to speak to anypony about it, she was very insistent.”

“As you are here, I can assume you were… successful. Might I ask what trial?” Twilight asked. Something about Twilight’s tone was off, a little too cold for her Sister-in-Law.

“Trial of the Path, she called it.”

Twilight turned to face her. “Indeed? She left your survival to pure chance,” Twilight said anger flaring as her eyes narrowed dangerously. Letting her eyes close and placing a hoof on her chest, she performed the breathing exercises Cadance remembered teaching her.

Calmer, Twilight continued. “I was not expecting her to take such a risk with her niece. Well, you at least you have the luck of the Stars with you, few survive without preparation.”

“Celestia did not put it quite that way, she said it was the gateway between being a mortal and an immortal Alicorn.”

“She let you… if it was not for…” a snarl left Twilight muzzle. “She left you in a position you could have died. Well… if she is not going to look after you, I will.” Her eyes lit with determination.

“Have you been through your Trial?” Cadance asked

“Trial of the Thorn,” she answered, pointing a hoof at her chest. “The loving princess of the sun drove a sword through right here.”

Cadance winced, hearing her domain taken in vain like that hurt. Luna said you were scared of Celestia, I just wish you hadn’t replaced that fear with hatred.

Magenta aura parted Twilight’s coat showing a neat scar. “She even left me with a permanent reminder.” Twilight turned to continue on their journey. “Come, there are things you shall learn,” Twilight commanded in a tone that brock no disagreement. To Cadance’s well-trained ears, it sounded like Twilight was trying her best to sound like Luna.

Cadance watched her go for a moment before following. She even has Luna’s imperious stride down. Has she changed her role model to Luna now?

She followed Twilight keeping her silence for a few minutes, the sound of their hooves on the Crystal floor the only thing for company. Looking around, she did not recognise this part of the castle.

Recalling the connection she had seen between Celestia and Twilight, Cadance knew that Celestia loved Twilight. What would bring you to do these things to your almost-daughter, Aunty? She thought.

“Twilight?” Cadance asked, hoping she was not about to anger Twilight further.

“You have questions,” Twilight stated not even looking back. “Ask them.”

That is not how Twilight normally speaks. She thought as she asked her question. “Why is the trial necessary?”

Twilight let out a long sigh. “If I am to teach you, I will not start with half-truths.” Her horn lit, a sound blocking barrier flashing into existence around them both. “One only truly becomes an Alicorn after passing a trial, beforehoof you are merely a potential alicorn. The longer your Alicornhood is held in potential, the more dangerous it is, and the more likely you are to fail your trial.”

A tight feeling rose in Cadance’s chest. “What happens if you fail?”

“Another thing dear Celesta would never have told you, but I will. For us, Alicorns, there is no afterlife waiting for us. We have either eternal life or true oblivion. Does that answer your question?”

Cadance nodded, falling back on her training. She did not want to show the dark lonely places her mind was trying to go. “So if Shining died, I would never be able to join him.”

Twilight paused thoughtfully for a moment. “Unless you are foalish enough to try to break into the afterlife.”

“You can just go there?” Cadance was stunned.

“Tartarus has a door, does it not?” Twilight stopped turning to face a section of wall. “Anyway, we are here.”

Cadance did not know what to think about that revelation. Instead, she looked at the wall, as far as she could tell, it was a wall. Extending her senses, it still felt like every other wall in Twilight’s Castle. She looked at Twilight and raised an eyebrow.

“If somepony is looking for secrets in my castle, what sort of concealment do you think they will be looking for?”

“... they would be expecting magic.”

“Yes,” Twilight said, before striking the wall with a hoof in a complex pattern.

A strange alien sound, a mix between an alien chirp and one of the sounds she once heard Pinkie Pie make. With a hiss of escaping air and a bizarre mix of humming and whining, part of the wall pivoted, revealing a secret passageway.

Twilight entered, flicking a wing for Cadance to follow. The room on the other side seemed unexpectedly normal, looking back at the door, there appeared to be some sort of device attached to it.

“What is it?” Cadance asked.

“An electric motor, microphone and simple computer form Sunset’s world.”

“Something nopony would expect or know how to deal with unless they had been through the mirror.” Cadance said nodding.

Twilight pressed a button, and the door slid closed. “The room is soundproofed, and the whole castle is warded against hostile detection magic, so nothing to give this place away.”

“Twilight, what do you use this room for?” Cadance asked, her mind thinking of darker reasons somepony might need a room like this.

“So far… hiding heartwarming gifts.”

Cadance let a small smile show. Even with all this hate in you, you are still … the Twilight I have known for years if not the one I foal sat from the beginning.

Twilight took up a firm stance. “If you would.” She nodded at her self.

“The armour, yes. How hard do you want me to hit it?” Cadance asked a little uncomfortably.

“As hard as you can.”

“You’re sure?” Cadance asked sounding doubtful.

“I tried hitting it with an anvil for half an hour this morning, not even a chip.”

“Oh, all right then.” Cadance walked over to Twilight, flexing and loosening up. “Sorry if this hurts.” She span, bunching up, preparing to buck with all her might. She could feel the earthpony magic rushing to her muscles, it felt exhilarating. Cadance grinned, she rarely got the chance to test herself like this.

The shockwave caused by the titanic impact burst her eardrums. She looked over her shoulder, Twilight was sliding down the far wall, a trail of shattered crystals lining the path she had taken through the air. Her grin faded as she galloped over to her sister.

“Twilight, Twilight, are you all right?” She knew she was speaking even if she could not hear it.

Twilight’s bleary eyes blinked and slowly focused on her. She nodded, slowly getting to her hooves. Cadance pulled her into a hug, wrapping her in her wings.

Twilight melted into the hug, relaxing. Cadance heard the content sigh. Good my hearing is recovering. She thought. She sniffed. “Twilight, you really need a bath.”

Twilight looked at herself and investigated, her muzzle twisted in disgust. She pulled away from the hug. “Do you mind waiting a bit?”

“No need,” Cadance said with a grin. I know a spell Twilight doesn’t. It was a small thought but made her feel ridiculously proud to be able to do even a single piece of magic Twilight could not. Cadance’s horn flashed twice in quick succession. Her personal grooming spell leaving both of them brushed, cleaned, smelling of roses and looking their royal best.

Cadance laughed with glee, the look of amazement on Twilight’s face was just priceless. “What do you think of my invention?”

“... You do realise how complicated that spell was, how many things need to be taken into account to make that work?” It seemed like Twilight was in a mild bit of shock.

“Also long as you know how to do each step of the task with your own hooves, getting magic to do it is a snap.” Cadance smiled.

“An ascended earthpony would be terrifying.”

“Or a pegasus raised in an earthpony village?” Cadance said with a knowing look.

Twilight smiled, a tilt of the head conceding the point. “Or that yes, so shall we begin with your lesson?”

“I’m more than a little curious about what we will be learning.”

“The first thing is how to defend your mind, right now I could take control of your body, and there is nothing you could do about it,” Twilight declared as she started pacing the room.

Cadance’s eyes widened in horror, memories of Shining Armour being controlled by the Changelings coming to her. She pushed her past aside and carefully studied Twilight’s connection to her, deliberately paying no attention to any other. If she saw Celestia’s again, she would probably break down right in front of Twilight.

Twilight's connection to her was strong, healthy. Her love pure, the lack of trust more than healed. Cadance smiled. Strangely there was also a second connection, thinner, more recent that also connected to her. It was a mix of pity, duty, respect and laced with desire. This new link danced with bursts of protective anger.

What is this? She thought. Ponies don’t have two connections with one pony. Nor do they have connections with themselves. She pondered, remembering what she had seen last time. The only thing she could be sure of is that Twilight had no intent to hurt her, she loved her and wanted to protect her. For Cadance, that was more than enough to trust her.

Twilight stopped turning to face her and nodded grimly. “I have no idea why Celestia left you defenceless like this. But I will fix that.” Something in Twilight’s gaze seemed older, the look of centuries adding weight to her words.

“Ok, what do we do?” Cadance did not like how small her voice sounded, something about that gaze made her feel like a foal.

Twilight spoke a few words in a strange language, each word seemed to resonate within her. Cadance looked questioningly at her. Something about the way they sounded, that was the language Twilight’s song was meant to be sung in, she just knew it.

“Learn those words and learn them well.”

Cadance nodded, rolling the words in her mouth. Despite never hearing them before, they felt familiar. The language was just comfortable and easy to speak. Like she had spoken it all her life, even if she only knew these few words.

“If somepony gets you to enter a magical contract or other mystically enforced agreement. This will hold both parties to the spirit of the agreement. It is called the Incantation-of-Good-Faith. Adding it before your agree modifies the agreement. If the other party is trying to trick or deceive you… the Incantation strikes at them.” Twilight laughed. “With how much of a sense of humour the reprisal can show, I would almost credit Discord with creating the Incantation.”

“It only works on magical contracts? I can’t use it on mundane ones?” Cadance asked, hopefully.

Twilight smiled “No… but I imagine it would not be hard for you to start replacing mundane ones with magical ones for the more important agreements?”

“I don’t know how to forge pacts… I think that’s what it’s called.”

“How many gaps… No not important.” Twilight stepped close to her and lit her horn.

“I am going to state my intent to train you, to take you as my apprentice. That I will never lie to you during a lesson and that everything that I cause to happen to you during your lessons I do for your benefit. Also, there is a small note that neither of us will go to war with each other without formally ending this arrangement. This will allow me to show you how to protect your mind, but for as long as you are my apprentice, it will allow me past said defences. I will not use this to harm you other than as needed for your training.”

Cadance paled, this was all sounding very serious. The second connection was burning with intensity but not a single hit of dishonesty. She nodded. “What do I need to do?”

“Once I finished speaking, invoke the Incantation and touch your horn to mine.”

“That’s all?”

Twilight nodded. “That’s all.” She flared her wings and took a regal pose. She began speaking in the enchanting language, every word sounded unique. Just imagining that song was nearly bring a tear to Cadance's eye, she could almost hear the song.

The words paused, Twilight presented her horn.

I trust you, Twilight. Cadance thought as she spoke the Incantation then lowered her horn, crossing it with Twilights.

The world went white.

Cadance awoke, she was warm, comfortable. The familiar softness of her bed beneath her, the sensations of her sheets surrounding her.

“Shiny, how did we get back?” she asked, reaching out to where he would typically be. He was not there, his side of the bed was cold. She snapped to alertness, looking around.

I was about to learn something from Twilight… how did I get here? She worried as she looked around her room. Everything was where it should be. Motion in a reflection caught her attention. In the reflection, she could see servants tending to her room, one even freshening the sheets.

Glancing around the room, no she was alone. And yet in the reflection, two servants were still working. What is going on?

There was a knocking at her door. “Come in,” she said.

The door lit with a pleasantly familiar magenta aura as it swung open. Twilight stepped in, smiling happily.

“What happened, why are we in the Empire?” Cadance asked.

Twilight advanced into the room, taking a seat. “Cadance, in a very real way, you are the Empire.”

What? She thought before responding. “You don’t mean that in the same way ponies say Celestia is Equestria, do you?”

“No, I do not,” Twilight answered, with a slight shake of her head. “We Alicorns are as much above other ponies mentally as we are physically and magically.” She gestured around the room. “This is your Mental Bastion, in your case, it just happens to be linked to the physical world.”

“So… we are in my mind, and somehow the Empire is one of my mind’s defences? That is what you are saying, right?”

“Yes, and now that you have been here, your mind is fortified by it. Even Luna will not be able to visit your dreams unless you allow it.”

Cadance pointed at the servants in the reflection. “And that is really happening right now?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes, do you want to go and talk to them?”

“No, not yet at least. What is your Mental Bastion?”

Twilight smirked. “Would you be surprised if I told you it was a library in a tree?”

Cadance laughed. “You always prefered the Golden Oaks over your castle.”

“In another lesson, I will see about showing you around, but not today.”

“So if we are meant to be so much smarter than other ponies, why can’t I wrap my head around the advanced mathematics you like so much?” Cadance asked in confusion.

Twilight shook her head with a chuckle. “Being an Alicorn does not make us more intelligent… we merely have more space in our minds. Our minds and wellsprings are… their own plane of reality.”

“So like the pockets you and Star are so fond of?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“So, what are we meant to do with all this space?”

“Whatever you want… but with this being tied to the physical empire, you have some unique opportunities. Twilight looked around the room. “I would imagine any changes you make to the crystal walls here will be mirrored.”

Cadance looked at the wall, “And how would I go about changing it?”

“To begin, simply place your hoof against it, let your senses extend into it and Will it to change.”

Cadance gracefully extracted herself from the bed and walked over to the wall beside Twilight. “So, physically, I’m still in Ponyville?” She asked.

“Our bodies are safe, and yes, they are still in Ponyville.”

Turning her attention back to the wall, Cadance located the part she was seeking. Always wanted some artwork here. She thought, placing her hoof over the section.

A thrum of power danced under her hoof. Just like magic lessons, know your intent, visualise your intent, manifest your intent. She mentally recited as she closed her eyes.

Taking a calm breath, she cleared her mind of everything. The troubles of the last week fading into unimportance. Another breath and she formed a single image in her mind's eye. The image of Shining and her marks held together by beautiful roses clarified in her mind. She pushed the image into the wall, just as if it were a spell.

The power in the wall rippled, a moment later, so did its surface. Keeping her eyes closed, Cadance held the image steady. She had long ago learnt you never interrupt a spell partway through unless you knew how to do so safely.

She could feel the texture change and parts moving under her hoof. Slowly the power faded, the motion stopped. The wall felt solid under her hoof again. Ten slow breaths later she opened her eyes.

Before her was the image, perfectly shaped in the crystal. Even the colours were right.

“Huzzah, a splendid showing,” Twilight said from beside her pulling her into a hug.

Cadance returned the hug, looking between the new work of art and Twilight. Even though she was no longer touching it, the power in the wall, its heartbeat-like thrum still brushed against her senses.

Expanding her senses slowly, every part of the building reported back. “I can still feel it,” Cadance said, marvelling at the sensation.

We stand ready, your Majesty. A chorus of voices stated in her mind. Her mystical sense identifying the sources. All around the building, where guards were usually stationed, parts of her Crystal had intent, they had voices.

Calling on her recent practice at mental communication with Luna, she reached out to the two outside her room. Please come in. She sent.

The door was pushed open, Twilight turned, assuming a battle stance, shielding her with a wing. Two of her Crystal guards in ancient armour even for the empire stepped into the room coming to attention.

“Cadance, did you just create them?”

“No, they were already here,” Cadance said to Twilight before turning to the guards. “Please, identify yourselves.”

“We are the Eternal Guard, your Majesty,” they both said as one.

“How many of them do you have?” Twilight asked.

“One hundred in the building,” Cadance answered before closing her eyes. Extending her senses past the building out into the empire itself. Each part of the city responded, every guard reporting in as her senses brushed over them. “Nine-hundred more round the rest of the city.”

“Well… congratulations on having the most secure mind of any Alicorn in recorded history,” Twilight said with more than a little awe. “One thousand guardian fragments… who are you?” Twilight’s gaze turned to Cadance with a hint of fear to them.

Cadance laughed softly. “I’m Cadance, your old foal sitter remember.” She shrugged. “Or Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, if your feeling formal,” she said, not finding it odd at all that she had so many guards at her mental beck and call.

Twilight visibly calmed herself using the breathing exercises she taught her. “Well…” She straightened and took on Luna’s noble baring again. “There are more lessons for today, but first a question. How are your illusions?”

“Not very good, I can just about change the colour or taste of things.” Cadance admitted.

“And your Thestral magic?”

Cadance looked at Twilight blankly.

“Alicorns are made up of all types of ponies,” Twilight explained.

“Oh, I know that, aren't thestrals just nocturnal pegasi?”

“No…” She snarled before continuing normally. “Most of Luna’s favourite tricks are thestral magic.”

“The shadow walking? I always wondered how she did that without using her horn,” Cadance said, studying Twilight carefully.

That flair of anger brought her attention back to Twilight’s connections with her. The main heartline to her had hardly reacted to anything, only the warmth of being near to a loved one, nothing else. On the other hoof, the second one had been the one reacting to everything.

Twilight took a moment to collect herself. “It was also how she made her Nightmare Moon appearance.”

“So I could grow fangs and make my wings bat-like?” she asked.

“With ease.”

“Can you?”

Twilight looked at her intently. “Promise you will remain calm? I am not confident in my ability to protect myself from your guards should you feel threatened.”

“I can still feel it is you Twilight, the heart is my Domain, and you are still in there,” Cadance said, placing a hoof on Twilight's chest. A small spike of worry rippled along the secondary link. Cadance kept her expression the same, hiding the doubt starting to creep in.

Twilight nodded, and in a moment, her eyes were cat-like, her wings had membranes and her ears tufted. She smiled, licking her new fangs. “So what do you think?” Twilight said proudly doing a little spin.

Twilight's body was a bit more athletic, a bit more adjusted to physical activity. Something about the way she was moving made Cadance think of a predator. Twilight was comfortable, like she had worn that form for years.

“In ancient times, it was normal to be like this during night time, switching back when the sun rose,” Twilight explained.

Still, she could feel that sense of fear coming from her. What are you hiding?. Putting that thought aside Cadance giggled, giving Twilight a knowing look. “I imagine you could have your choice of Thestral stallions or mares looking like that.”

The worry Cadance could sense faded, replaced by embarrassment and a little lust. Well, that's better than fearing me. She thought as she wrapped her wings around Twilight. “Now if you need any advice…” She teased.

Twilight melted into the embrace. “You’re almost as bad as Tia.”

Cadance praised her long years of being a diplomat. Twilight would never call Celestia, Tia. You only just learnt to not call her Princess all the time… am I even talking to Twilight now? She could feel her guards ready to defend her if necessary. If there was ever going to be a safe time to ask this.

With a mental command, she summoned another ten guards to wait outside of the room.“Twilight?”

Twilight looked to her still enjoying the hug. “Yes, Cadance.”

“You said you would never lie to me during lessons.” Cadance said cautiously.

“That was our Pact, yes.” Twilight answered, a hit of warryness entering her tone.

“Who are you?”

Twilight Stiffened. “I knew you had me when you mentioned your domain…” She pulled back from their hug and sat before her no longer even trying to use Twilight’s mannerisms.

“So…” Cadance said expectantly.

“I am one of Twilight’s Protectors and the second parent of Little Star,” not Twilight said smiling. “You may call me Night if you wish.”

She did not miss her not saying what her name was, only what to call her. But the so-called Night was not lying to her. Night’s love for Star was real, nopony could fake their heartlines. And for some reason you are dedicated to protecting me. Cadance thought, before asking. “Where is Twilight now?”

“She is still in Ponyville, currently resting… do you want to end our agreement?” Night asked her wings drooping a little.

Cadance spent a long few seconds thinking. “Why do you want to teach me?”

“You are important to Twilight and Little Star likes you.” A warm smile crossed Night’s face. “That would be more than enough for me to aid you; however I can.” Night’s expression hardened. “The fact that Celestia left you uneducated and defenceless demands I do so.”

“Do you love her?”

“I… respect her, and I think we may be friends, perhaps more in time?”

“And yet you had a foal with her?” Cadance kept her indignation out of her voice as best as she could.

Night laughed. “Blame the Elements of Harmony, it was not something either of us chose. And yet neither of us are unhappy with how things have turned out.”

“Can I speak to her?”

“Yes, we can see if she is awake when we get back to Ponyville.”

“Can you wake her now?”

Night shook her head. “Not from here, shall we continue the lessons?”

This was not a situation she was expecting to deal with. If it was not for the fact that she had just found out she had a thousand guards living in her mind, she would have rejected Night Immediately. Cadance nodded. She would learn what she could and make up her mind what to do about Night later.

“Given your mind has a unique vulnerability. The first thing is going to be how to project your self from in here, to out there.” She pointed to the reflection, where the two servants were studying the new work of art.

“What vulnerability?”

“An army or a powerful mage could level the Empire, destroying your mind, consigning you to oblivion.” Night said with deadly seriousness.

“So what's first Teacher,” Cadance answered, trying her best not to think about that situation.

Cadance was not a fast study, it had taken what felt like hours to master this so-called simple spell. Night was patient with her but was not the best teacher. That if nothing else nailed home the fact this was not Twilight.

They had waited for the servants to leave before making an attempt to avoid startling them.

know your intent, visualise your intent, manifest your intent. She thought as she advanced to the reflective wall. Closing her eyes and visualising walking through a doorway, she kept going.

Heat, touch and hearing faded, only an impression of motion let her know she was still moving forward. It could have been a second or a year, time had no meaning in this in-between state. It felt as if a Teleport had been slowed to a crawl, but with none of the discomfort in her horn.

Her senses stepped into the physical world first, for a moment, she was there without a body. Crystal rose up from the floor, wrapping around her, giving her a body. Even out here, the Crystal felt like a part of her, she was not being entombed by cold matter. No, It was no different than wrapping her wing around herself on a cold day.

She stood there, an Alicorn made of Crystal, like something out of legends. She could feel her Eternal Guard waiting, and with an effort of will, she could pull them into this world. The rotation of the Crystal Heart in the distance altered, matching time with her own heart. She could feel each pulse of energy as it protected the land, the love pouring into it, into her from her subjects.

Cadance took a breath, and it seemed like the Empire breathed with her. I’m home. She thought. Relief like she had rarely felt rushed through her. Glancing at her crystal self, she decided she wanted a better look. She trotted over to her full-length mirror.

Looking at her reflection, she marvelled, she knew she was beautiful before hoof, now she looked the part of a Goddess. She flared her wings, doing her best Celestia impression. If I had looked like this when I arrived, I would have had no doubt that I am meant to be the Crystal Princess. She thought.

A swirl of darkness caught her attention. Twilight’s normal body formed itself form inky shadows as Night stepped through the reflection. Cadance looked down at her realising how much taller she was than Twilight now.

Night’s eyes widened with recognition and immediately spread her wings and performed an elaborate bow, muzzle to the ground. Cadance mentally sighed. The fear was back, Night felt truly threatened.

“Night?” Cadance said using a hoof to raise her gaze.

“Empress,” Night responded her tone respectful.

“It’s just me, Cadance, remember?” Cadance said, lifting Night form her bow and offering a warm smile.

“You, look just like she did, before Sombra shattered her.” Night spoke weakly.

Cadance looked at herself, considering. Yes, I do look like some of the images in the archive. “What does this mean?” She asked.

“You might be the Empress or one of her fragments returned. You could have inherited the Empress’ Bastion and power through blood or by her soul possessing you. The final possibility is…darker. Somepony stole the Empress’ Bastion, killing her and later gave it to you.”

“You can steal somepony’s soul?” Cadance loudly asked in alarm.

“Yes, but I never heard of anypony being able to do it to an Alicorn.” Night answered.

Cadance performed her own breath technique, letting it calm her. “Which do you think is most likely?”

“As the guards obey you, I would say the first two are the most likely. My expectation of Celestia leads me to suspect that Sombra stole the Bastion and She somehow bestowed it upon you. I believe that arranging your ascension is the sort of thing she would do, I know she arranged Twilights.”

She wished Applejack was here to know for certain what words were the truth. Who am I? She thought mirroring Night’s earlier question.

The sound of the door moving caused her ears to flick in that direction. One of her Enteral Guard formed, crystals growing from the floor in the shape of a pony.

Three stunned ponies stood looking into the room. Two crystal pony servants and Sunburst the unicorn. The two servants immediately dropped into a bow.

“Princess Twilight, why am I seeing the Crystal Empress here?” Sunburst asked, checking his glasses.

Night immediately played the part of Twilight again. “That’s Cadance, we were just trying a long-distance communication spell, and given Cadance's blood relation to the Empress, this is how she showed up. It seems to use pre-set forms for the projections that the Crystal remembers.”

“Astounding,” Sunburst said, moving closer to study them.

Cadance could feel her guard ready to act, with an effort of will she returned them to the other side. Thank you for your vigilance, he is a trusted friend, so at this time it is not needed. She sent to them.

“Ponyfeathers, I guess I can’t manage to project Shiny here as well,” Night covered.

Cadance watched, Night let Sunburst do most of the talking, most the theorising, only adding a few words here and there to keep him going. He did not notice Twilight’s lack of input, the added praise and just a little Alicorn power blinding him to any errors in her performance.

Cadance went to talk to the servants, leaving Night to her acting. “You may rise,” she said.

It would be so easy for an Alicorn to become a tyrant. She thought. With my domain and Alicorn persuasion what could I not get somepony to do?

She knew she could strengthen and repair heartlines, could she destroy them? Could she create fake ones? If I became evil, could I just make everypony love me? The only ponies that could even notice would be other Alicorns. I even have an army I can summon with a thought.

Luna could control everypony's dreams, Twilight might be able to control all the world’s magic. Apparently, Celestia is willing and able to replace ponies with tools to fit her plans. Cadance thought and for the first time, was terrified of what she could do.

She did not want to deal with this, she wanted to see her daughter.

Her room was gone, replaced by Flurryheart’s. Now before her sleeping was her daughter. She had no idea how she got here, but right now, that did not matter.

She gently lifted Flurry and nuzzled her, replacing her daughter's blankets with her own wings. For a long moment, nothing else mattered. I can see how a foal can change somepony Nightmare. She thought, almost certain in Night’s real identity.

Flurry heart yawned and opened her eyes. She smiled a giggled immediately recognizing her mother despite the different form. Flurry adorably screwed up her little face and In a flash of magic she was gone. Laughing with wild abandon the little Alicorn was darting around the room with her wings, horn lit a swarm of toys surrounding her.

Flurry’s youthful energy could not last long, Cadance smiled lovingly at her daughter and gave chase.

Sometime later after Flurry had tried herself out completely playing with her. Cadance watched her daughter sleep and was wondering what to do. She loved every moment she had with her Flurry Heart but there were things she had to learn.

Almost as if summoned, Night’s form stepped from the shadows. She looked around the room before focusing on Cadance and Flurry. A warm smile crossed her muzzle. Placing two scrolls to the side, Night bowed and left without a single word.

Lifting the scrolls in her aura, she opened them. More magic theory to learn. Looking to her sleeping daughter, she made sure she was tucked in bed with her cuddly toy placed just so.

I’ll be able to learn these faster with her help. Extending her senses and locating Night proved easy. Everything within the empire was as simple to detect as Flurry here in the room with her.

Quietly she left the room to find Night.

To avoid causing too much of a situation, they both had returned to the other side. Cadance was now back to her normal size no longer made of Crystal. Night resumed her thestral traits and was reclining next to her helping her learn the theory on the scrolls. It was hard to feel worried about Night, the mildly frustrated teacher, even if she might really be Nightmare Moon.

The last two scrolls did not take too long to learn with help. The first was how to enter and leave her Bastion at will. Apparently, unless she chose otherwise, now that she was fully bonded with it, she would return here anytime she slept. Once you understood the concept, it was a simple as deciding what side of the bed to get out of.

The last one was how to create Fragments. The whole concept terrified her, separating a part of your soul and setting it free was daunting. Even with the knowledge that my soul will rapidly heal. I’m not sure if I will ever be brave enough to use this apparently ‘natural’ Alicorn ability. She thought.

Once Night had checked and double-checked that she had memorised everything on the scrolls, she spoke. “Now for the final lesson for today.” Night paused for dramatic effect. “Here and now we are not the real Night and Cadance. They are off still in Ponyville.”

“What do you mean.” Cadance rose to her hooves. A thread of panic entered her mind. Then who am I? She thought

“I mean that neither of us are really the ponies we feel that we are. We are part of their souls broken off and given a purpose. In this case, act just like them.”

“Do you mean…when this spell ends... I’m... that we are both about to die?

“If for one instant I thought this was the end for us, I would hold you in my hooves and kiss you,” Night said advancing on her. The movement was just like Luna's. “I would tell you that the only reason I am not trying to court you is that you are bound to Shining Armor.”

Cadance just stared at her. Is this some sort of joke?

“But we are not ending… we are simply returning home. So I don’t get my kiss.” Night smiled playfully and winked.

Night pulled her closer and into a hug. “There is nothing to worry about, this is just part of what it means to be an Alicorn.”

Cadance let herself return the hug, a little too confused to react. We might die, and you’re telling me that should trust that you not kissing me is a reason to believe it will all be fine?

Night nipped her ear with a fang. “Pay attention.”

Cadance pressed a hoof to it, she glared at Night. “What did…” She started but was cut off by Night’s hoof.

“If you don’t learn to create Fragments deliberately, you end up doing it accidentally. In a few years you would start hearing answers to your idle wonderings or when you talk to yourself, a different you will answer. Luna knows well how that can turn out.”

Is she talking about how Nightmare Moon came to be? That can happen to any of us? Cadance thought.

“Remember to be careful. Know why you are making a Fragment. If you can avoid it, do not make fragments in haste, when in distress or when intoxicated.”

“Like any spellcraft,” Cadance said, still with an undertone of fear.

Night stroked along her mane, humming that ancient tune almost as if Cadance was her foal. She could feel her panic fading, the words of the song, words she had never heard starting to come to her mind. She let her eyes close. This is nice.

Night stopped humming and just like that, the words faded like mist under sunlight. Cadance opened her eyes looking into Night’s, she wanted to hear more.

Regrettably the lesson and not the song continued. “When you create a Fragment either give them a role or a name. If they are needed for a task or will have responsibility, hold that firmly in your mind as you create them.”

Night looked apologetic. “If you do not, then they will be you. This can cause confusion unless you are deliberately trying to be in two places at once. Your guards are the first type, they have but a role. They are just that, guards, loyal, obedient, with little will of their own. If you give them a name, they will be as real as you or me.”

“So they will be my children?”

“Or your sisters, friends or companions. It all depends on how different you make them.”

“And we are nameless?”

“Yes, we feel and act just like the whole. For all purposes, we are them, just in a different place.”

“But I only have one body.”

“Yes but there are ways around that, magical mirrors and the projection magic you learnt today.” She paused, looking thoughtful. “If a Fragment claims a name, let them and welcome your new companion. Do not try to force them to forsake it. It would be cruel and will come back to bite you later,” Night said in warning.

“So the nameless and the ones with only a duty can grow into a named?”

Night nodded “Your homework is to create a Fragment, this will stop you going insane and prevent any accidental creations.”

“You’re giving me homework?”

“Now, the lesson is over… If you still think we are going to die I would be happy to make your ‘final’ moments very pleasurable,” Night said in a husky voice leaning closer. Twilight had grown from an adorable foal to a beautiful mare. This close and like this, she could see all the advantages Alicorns had over normal ponies.

Night’s hot breath on her ear, wingtips and hooves were almost straying into intimacy but not quite. Waring feelings danced in Cadance’s mind, anger, fear, embarrassment even to her shame at least a little interest.

Cadance braced her hooves to push Night away. "Stop that you..."

The world disappeared in a flash of white.

Cadance blinked, her eyes went wide, there were ponies around her talking. The emotions collided first, everything that both Cadances had felt hit her all at once, leaving a confusing mess. So many contradictory feelings that for a few seconds any reaction was impossible.

Who am I, where am I, what am I. She thought before the two chains of events played out in detail. I took everypony out for food because Pinkie ate all of the lovely breakfasts Star prepared

The Crystal Empire is my soul, I might be the Empress reborn or worse, and I can split myself into pieces as if it was nothing. I played with my daughter.

Everypony is happy. Twilight is alive.

Night is a Bad Teacher.

She froze remembering. Twilight is romantically interested in me? No that’s not right… the desire was in that second connection… It clicked in her mind. One of Twilight’s fragments is romantically interested in me… that fragment was Night, she had a name, so she was a real as anypony else.

Wait Night acts like Luna, could she be Nightmare moon?

She looked straight into Twilight’s eyes, No, into Night’s eyes. She could see the difference now. She could see which connection looked out from those eyes plain as day. Night’s final offer went through her mind then she remembered the confusion that hit when her Fragment returned.How much of that was just to blunt my fear, to stop me bolting to the skies as soon as I got back? She wondered.

“Welcome to a little of the truth,” Twilight said using a little air magic to create the sound.

“You really wanted to?” Cadance asked.

Twilight nodded the slightest amount.

A spike of interest from the side caught Cadance’s attention. Star seemed to be paying attention to them. It is almost like she can hear us. “You can hear us?” Still so quiet only an Alicorn had a hope of hearing.

Star nodded her head fractionally and spoke in the same way. “What was that spell?”

Cadance raised an eyebrow, she could feel Star’s excitement. Shining put his hoof on hers. “Everything alright, love?” He said.

She turned her full attention to him. “Everythings fine, I was just thinking how nice this get together is. We should do this more often, you know.” She could see by his expression he knew something was up.

With a flick of an ear and a glance around, she silently messaged him ‘Later when we are alone’. He nodded and went back to his food and the pleasant conversation.

Looking back at Night, she found her hugging Star. The love Night had for that little filly was the main reason she was risking trusting her. Just looking at the two of them, she couldn't help but smile widely. I miss Flurry again. She thought, her smile fading slightly. No wait I can visit her any time I want now. The smile returned in full.

“So have you been making new friends?” Night asked Star.

Star looked to the CMC. “Maybe?” She said to her mother. “Would you like to be friends?” She asked the Crusaders.

A mix of loud positive responses blended together. Star smiled. “Can we go play?”

Cadance had heard how destructive the CMC had been, she was dreading what they could get up to with a foal twice as powerful as Twilight was before becoming an Alicorn. Do I need to ready the guard, the fire service, the hospital? She thought as worse cases went through her mind.

“Do you have your helmet?” Night asked, clearly happy.

Cadance closed her eyes for a moment, holding her expression still as the expected discomfort of that type of magic played along her horn.

“That’s cool, not as cool as Rainbow Dash, but still cool,” Scootaloo said.

Night looked around the table, looking for any objections or comments. “Be careful, and make sure you are all home before dark,” Rarity added.

Star nodded “Will do, bye everypony,” She said with cheer. She lit her horn, and in a flash of magic, Star and the CMC were gone.

Cadance hissed in pain, placing a hoof to her horn. Concerned looks focused on her from around the table, Shining pulled her into a loving hug.

“Sorry everypony, I’m OK, I just really don’t get on with teleportation magic.” She said, waving a hoof to show she was fine as she leaned against her Shiny. Her mind drifted to what they could do together if he had wings.

Near silently, Night spoke to her. “You need to get the Leylines in your horn cleaned, ask Luna when you get back to help with getting rid of the magical residue in your horn.”

“Can’t you help?” Cadance respond in kind

“I don’t trust myself to keep my hooves off you, but if you want…” Night answered, even in the almost silent words, the desire and invitation were there.

“I will ask her tonight,” Cadance replied, nuzzling Shining clearly saying she was his and only his.

“Get a room,” Rainbow interrupted their silent conversation.

Cadance looked around, Rarity was watching, eyes wide at the romance, Fluttershy was blushing, Applejack seemed board. Night was looking at her smiling teasingly. Where's Pinkie? She thought, before noticing Pinkie was hugging her and Shining.

Shining politely coughed and evicted Pinkie from the hug.

Night laughed. “So shall we help Pinkie prepare for the party we all know she is going to be preparing for my Little Star?

The group finished up their food and Pinkie dragged everypony along with her sugar fueled energy.

Author's Note:

I would be very interested in hearing if you think this chapter needs more detail? I did not want bog things down too much either. Did I get the balance right?

Thank you for reading.

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