• Published 5th Dec 2019
  • 3,074 Views, 55 Comments

The Canterlot Hive - Bronyxy



When Shining Armor banished Twilight from his wedding, she returned distraught to Ponyville, but she soon got to hear about the changeling invasion of Canterlot. With the help of some unexpected allies, she returns to try and put everything right.

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2 Banishment

Twilight felt a sickening lurch, like she had fallen through a trapdoor.

She had experienced a feeling of weightlessness as her brother had deserted her with those words that had cut so deeply, “And you can forget about being my best mare. In fact, if I were you, I wouldn't show up to the wedding at all.”

Shock.

Then she had been abandoned by her friends. Even Spike. Even Celestia.

She had turned and run, tears clouding her eyes, desperate to get out of the castle and leave behind the harsh words and wounding looks. She didn’t stop for anypony and careened out into the night past a pair of startled guards in the direction of the station.

Her escape had not been like the running of the leaves when she had paced herself, but instead a headlong rush to run away and leave her woes behind. She really felt that if she slowed down, her worries would catch up to her and engulf her, so it was with mixed emotions she approached the station and had to slow. Her lungs were grateful for the respite, but her fears crept into the space being vacated by her receding adrenaline.

“When is the next train for Ponyville please?” she panted to the bemused station master.
“Ponyville, you say?” he turned the words over in his mouth and looked up wistfully to the ceiling, “Not another one till seven tomorrow morning …”
Twilight’s heart sank.
“ … Unless of course you want to travel with the mail, that is” he completed, bringing his eyes down to meet hers, “And forgive me Miss, but you don’t look like the mail train type to me.”
“I’ll take it” she replied.

“First time for everything, I guess” quipped the station master, “That’ll be fifteen bits please.”
“Of course” she muttered, feeling for her purse that she had left behind in the castle. She could picture exactly where it was in her room, but that wasn’t going to help her now.

“Can I do it on a warrant?” she asked, “I’m Princess Celestia’s pupil.”
He eyed her suspiciously, like this was a comment he had heard many times before, especially when the bars were closing up for the night.
“No, really” she persisted, desperation creeping into her voice, “At least look me up on the list would you?”

He fixed her with the sharpest of his two aging eyes, sizing her up, “Alright, I’ll bite; what’s your name?”
“Twilight Sparkle” she replied, T ... W … I … L …”
“Ah, there you are - wouldn’t you believe it!” he acknowledged, nodding his head with a mixture of both surprise and approval, “Here, let me write that warrant for you right now. Train leaves in just a little under two hours. Sorry, but the café’s closed and we got nothin’ else to do here but wait.”
“Thank you” said Twilight, taking the warrant, “I’ll be fine.”

She stepped away from the clerk’s window and walked slowly to a bench on the platform where she sat down and stared up at the stars. She knew all the constellations, of course, that was foals’ play, but tonight she just looked without seeing, her mind replaying those fateful few minutes from earlier when her world had fallen apart.

Twilight scanned the night sky looking for evidence of Luna’s latest artistry, but found none; it was like everypony was wrapped up in the wedding preparations. Everypony except for her. She felt herself tear up again and took no action as rivulets of salty tears tracked down her muzzle. She had lost her brother, her friends and her mentor in one go, just because she had imagined Cadance to be acting oddly.

Perhaps her friends had been right, perhaps it was jealousy; she would certainly play things differently if she could wind back time, but such spells were still beyond her, and likely to remain so for a few years yet. In fact, she could probably say goodbye to any further studies under Princess Celestia and also lose her privileged access to the Royal Library. Even the Golden Oak library wouldn’t be the same anymore, now Spike had turned against her too.

The minutes dragged by, each one conspiring with the others to maximise her discomfort, allowing her plenty of opportunity to dismantle her self-esteem brick at a time, until she felt utterly worthless.

Porters arrived and clattered their barrows across the platform, lining them up ready to load the mailbags onto the train when it arrived. A couple of the porters spared a glance in her direction, but she carried a look they had seen before on the faces of solitary passengers late at night, and they continued their duties without wishing to disturb her and get drawn in to her personal hell. Twilight looked up and saw the bustle of activity and on the one hoof wanted to be left alone, but was equally desperate that just one of them would check on her; either way she was destined to be disappointed, so let her head hang down and stared at the dirt.

Eventually, the train arrived, heaving deep heavy breaths of steam as it came to a stop. As if on cue, the porters appeared from nowhere to service this great beast by feeding it with mailbags.
“Um, Miss” came a voice from beside her, “This is the mail train for Ponyville. Would you like me to assist you aboard?”
She slowly raised her head and he could sense how troubled she was, the redness of her eyes accentuated under the platform’s obtrusive lighting.

“Um, Miss …” he repeated, “I could maybe travel with you, if you want?”
She stared at him and did something that five minutes ago, she could never imagine herself ever doing again, and smiled. It was an awkward smile, but at least it was genuine.
“Thank you” she said simply, her throat like sandpaper, then allowed him to help her up while her tired legs stretched to accept her weight. She said nothing more, but boarded the train and made a pretence of trying to get comfortable on the floor of the sparsely furnished mail van that would be her home for the next two hours.

***

The old guard knew the route well, as he did every mail route across Equestria. He had always felt somehow more attuned to the peace and tranquillity of the night time; it was too busy in the heat of the day for him, what with all the ponies going to work, school and the hundred other things that they all had to squeeze in before night came. Then they all went to bed and prepared themselves for performing the same frantic rush the following morning, every last one of them missing the beauty of the night around them, which would gently caress the soul if they cared to let it.

Here was a pony who respected the artistry of Princess Luna, a true devotee.

He had been riding the rails ever since he cared to remember, and probably further back than that. Over the years he had shared his mail van with many different ponies; some liked to talk, others didn’t, he just accommodated them with good grace and listened as they unburdened themselves, or left them alone if they didn’t.

He knew they were now five miles from Ponyville, not by any sign or other cue, just by feel. In less than a minute they would start to slow so as to arrive punctually and stop just at the right place next to the platform. The lilac unicorn hadn’t moved, so he figured she was asleep, and had left her undisturbed for the whole journey, just respecting her privacy. Now he crossed over to her and circled round to approach her from the front where she would see him as soon as she awoke and not be startled. He was surprised to see her staring unblinking at the rudimentary panelling on the wall of the mailvan with a look of deep sadness on her muzzle.

“We’re almost at Ponyville now, Missy” he announced in his kindly elderly voice.
“Thank you” she whispered without turning her head or even blinking an eye.
“Care to talk?” he offered, “We’ve only got a few minutes, but I’m here if there’s something you want to get off your chest.”
“Thank you” she said softly, “For caring.”
He sat quietly as they felt the gentle retardation of the brakes starting to bite.

They shared a few brief minutes of silent acknowledgment before the final application of brakes brought the train to a stop; just in the right place, as usual.
“Good luck, Missy” said the guard as Twilight rose and shared a half-smile with the kind old stallion who held the door open for her, “Things will get better, you’ll see.”
She turned to look back at him and gave the shallowest of nods, unable to imagine how they could, but not wanting to be rude to the kindly old guard, then walked slowly towards the exit.

The first rays of early morning sun were just agreeing their game plan somewhere the other side of the horizon, before joyously rising on their cue to throw the first spears of light across the dawning sky. Twilight had felt drawn to return to Ponyville, yet now she was here, she couldn’t fathom why she had come back.

Everything around her held memories of her friends, and now they had turned against her, it was all sour. Unable to face the familiar sights and sounds that would conjure up their images, she set off away from town before she could be seen, and headed in the direction of the Everfree.

The last place anypony would run into her was the scary old forest, so that was where she headed, following the familiar path towards the Castle of the Two Sisters, where she could lock herself away. Just being away from everypony was all she wanted at the moment, but although she may have appeared to be on her own, she was hounded by self-doubt, self-loathing and a host of other unwanted companions who refused to leave her alone.

She struggled on through the forest where Pinkie Pie had saved them from their fears so long ago. Pinkie Pie; her perpetually happy friend. Until now.

Would she ever see the party pony again?

The forest didn’t look at all scary now the sun was beginning to filter through the trees that had so scared them before. Sure, they had been frightened, but Pinkie had held them all together with her silly song. How she ached to feel that bond of friendship again now.

Then she arrived at the river where they had met Steven Magnet. This morning it was quiet; no sea serpent to be placated by a meaningful gift or make a bridge to get her to the other side, but equally it was calm and easy to cross.

Rarity; even she had turned away from her.

Her walk to the castle kept throwing up savage reminders of the friendships she had lost, mocking her every move along the familiar route they had first travelled together, twisting a dagger inside her soul.

She arrived at the rope bridge, still standing after Rainbow Dash had chosen loyalty to her friends over her heart’s desire. It was all so poignant, that Twilight couldn’t help but shed a tear as she thought of the bearer of the element of loyalty. Loyalty; the value that she should have displayed towards her old foalsitter, but hadn’t.

Rainbow would have been proud that the bridge was still standing, and Twilight crossed over quickly, not wanting to dwell on her sadness for any longer than necessary.

Ahead stood the ruined castle. She turned to take one last look behind her, swearing never to return, then looked up towards the ominous shape of the ruined castle silhouetted against the sunrise that would be her home until she could think of something better. She trudged sadly up the steps to the ageing wooden front door and went inside, following by instinct the one path through the castle she knew best.

With a precision borne of many repeated visits, she threaded her way unerringly through the musty old corridors until she reached a nondescript door with a sign bearing letters that had faded long ago. She pushed it open and entered into the first sanctuary of her long journey.

The ceiling had remained by some miracle intact following Celestia’s fight with Nightmare Moon a thousand years ago, protecting those most precious occupants, which most referred to as books, but as far as she was concerned were her only remaining friends.

She looked around admiringly, taking in the neatly organised shelves arranged by subject and cross referenced by author. They all stood to attention, waiting expectantly for her to pick them up and acknowledge them. They would never be critical or judgemental, just eager for her to spend time with them and read the secrets they held within their pages. That sounded good, and the happy thought lifted her depressive mood just enough to allow her to contemplate the need for sleep.

For now, she chose not to disturb any of them, but instead cast a keep out spell to deter any creature from entering the room and settled down on the floor, resting her head on her crossed forelegs and went to sleep.