• Published 11th Jun 2020
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The Reluctant Protector - LadyMaria



Twilight Sparkle finds a place seemingly devoid of magic in the Everfree and informs Celestia.

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3 - Apologies and Reconciliation

As it turns out, a ‘thud’, is the sound a Twilight Sparkle makes when it hits the ground. “Ooh,” I winced. “She’s going to feel that when she wakes up.” I walked over to her and picked her up, bridal style. “Come on, let’s get her comfortable.” No response. I turned to face Lyra and Spike. I could see to the back of their throats. I rolled my eyes and set Twilight down on a pile of books. “You should close your mouths or you’ll start to swallow flies.”

“-cess.” I heard Twilight mumble as she started to come to. I leaned down to her face.

“What’s that, Hun?”

“Princess…” She said. I backed off and sighed.

“Yep. Me and Celestia are married. Have been for a while now. Let’s see…” I thought for a moment. “What’s today's date?” I asked, looking at Spike who looked startled that I was addressing him.

“Who, me?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, you.”

“It- I mean- Well it’s-”

I cut him off and turned to Lyra who had not moved. “Lyra, what’s today's date?” No response. “Lyra.” Nothing. I poked her cheek. “Lyra?”

“You…” she said with a sort of creak in her voice.

“Me?” I prompted.

“You’re a- a-”

“Princess…” Twilight Mumbled again in her sleep.

I looked around the room. Lyra and Spike were staring at me. “Well… Yes, but actually no.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Asked Spike. “You’re married to Princess Celestia. That would make you royal. In fact,” He scratched his chin with a claw. “Since she’s a princess and she’s married, that would make her, Queen Celestia you, Queen Artemis.”

“Not in Equestria.” I said.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“It was agreed when this country was founded that it shall never be ruled by a King or a Queen. People with titles like those tend to get a bit too big for their britches if you know what I mean.”

“Okay, that’s fine and all but there’s one thing I don’t understand…” Spike said cautiously. I nodded for him to continue. “You said that you looked like that when the Princesses where born?” I nodded. “Yet, you’re married to Princess Celestia.” He stopped to think for a moment, wondering how to put to words what he was thinking. “Isn’t that kind of… I don’t know… Robbing the cradle?” Ha! I like this kid!

“Spike!” Lyra shouted in complete shock. “You can’t say that! It’s totally inappropriate!” I was laughing pretty hard at this point. “Princess, I’m so sorry, please don’t hold it against him! He’s just curious.”

As annoyed as I was at her use of the title, ‘Princess’, I let it slide. “It’s alright Lyra.” I held up my hands in a placating gesture. “He’s just saying what’s on his mind. I can see how it would be a bit weird from an outside perspective.” I walked over to him, and crouched so I was nearly at his level. “Spike, I’m old. I’m so old that nobody else compares. If I were to have a relationship with anyone in this world, I would be, ‘robbing the cradle’, as you put it.”

“I guess…” He said. “It’s still a bit weird.”

I shrugged. “Eh, what can you do? Me and Celly have been together for a couple of thousand years, minus the thousand I was away, I don’t think it’s fair to count that one.” Lyra walked right up to my face.

“But you are a princess though…?”

I broke into a sheepish smile. “I mean… Technically?”

Twilight shot up suddenly with wide eyes, then seemed to calm slightly. “Excuse me for a moment.” We all watched as she got up off of the stack of books and strolled off leisurely towards the bathroom. The door closed with a light 'click'.

Lyra grabbed me by my cloak and looked me in the eyes. “What do you mean technically? You either are or you aren’t. This isn’t some-” Twilight screamed. “-game Artemis! If I’ve been hanging around with an alcoholic Princess for the past few weeks, I want to know!” She came to her senses, let go, and backed off with a scared expression. “Oh my… Please, Princess, I didn’t know! I’m sorry!” She got down into a low bow. We heard a toilet flush and Twilight emerged from the bathroom looking dishevelled and wiping something from her lip.

“I’m a Princess’ Therapist…” She said with a far-away expression. Spike ran up to her, handing over and ice pack for the bump on her head. She took it from him and looked me in the eyes. “I- I… examined you.”

What the fuck is going on…? I need to take control of this situation. “Guys-”

“Lyra,” Twilight interrupted. “I’m going to write a letter to Princess Celestia to tell her what happened. She’ll probably want to talk to you about your experiences with Princess Artemis.”

“No, don't-!” I said a little more forcefully.

“Of course, That’s completely reasonable.” Lyra said, ignoring me. “I mean, I’ve just known that her spouse was alive and well, weeks before she did and have been hanging out with them without a care in the world.” Her eye was twitching. “It’s totally fine.” She started to sway back and forth.

“I wouldn’t worry, Lyra.” Said Spike, encouraging her with a pat on the arm “Princess Celestia wouldn’t do anything to you. If anything, she would-” I brought my thumb and index finger up to my mouth and whistled. Loudly. They covered their ears and stared with wide eyes. Then there was quiet.

“Thank you.” I walked over to a pile of books and calmly sat down, thinking what to say next. “Now, first things first. I want you all to know that I don’t want you to treat me any differently than you have been.”

“But that’s not possible!” Twilight began. “We have to follow royal procedure and-” I made an effort of will towards Twilight's mouth and closed it with an audible click.

“Now you have a time out.” I said to her. “It’s my turn to speak.” There was total silence again. “As I was saying. None of you, and I do mean none of you.” I said giving Twilight a pointed look. “Will be treating me any differently than you already have been.” She looked like she wanted to object. “Don’t you think there’s a reason why I’m currently not in Canterlot sitting on a throne? I love Celestia. I truly do. Always have, always will.” My eyes got a bit sad. "Whether she still feels the same is yet to be seen… But when we confessed our love to each other, it was agreed that I would not take a ruling roll.

I never wanted it. Mind you, neither did Celestia or Luna really, but they didn’t have a choice. They dealt the final blow to discord and stopped his reign of chaos. In doing so, the ponies of this world put them on a pedestal that was simply too high for them to get down from, no matter how much they tried.” Twilight's face gained a look that was close to either shame or contemplation, perhaps both.

“Not to mention, their ability to raise the Sun and Moon.” Lyra interjected.

I nodded. “When I say I didn’t want to rule, I meant that. I may have been named a princess, but I wanted nothing more than to live out my days at my cabin in the woods, with Celly at my side. But she had a duty to the country. And I had a duty to my wife. So, I stayed by her side and protected her. I was damn good at it too.” I looked out the window. Now that I was nowhere in sight, the ponies that where hiding earlier had come out and started to get on with their day. Moving and talking and buying. As if nothing was wrong in the world. A rainbow seemed to streak across the sky. “Then that night happened one thousand years ago. Everything went to shit.” They were looking at me with pity now. I hate that.

I reached into my cloak, pulled out my flask and stared at it. I quickly opened it and took another long pull of the burning liquid. Then I turned to Lyra, smiled, and said. “It’s like I said. I know failure. You are not a failure. Your dear old human is. I want you to remember that going forward.” Lyra, with tears in her eyes quickly moved to me and wrapped her arms around me. “Don’t do that.” She didn’t move. “Lyra, stop.”

“No.” Came the instant reply. I sighed and relented, letting her try to squeeze the life out of me. I knew I didn’t deserve this, but it would be pointless to try and stop her.

“Would you still be doing this if you knew what I had done?” I asked. “Would Celestia even give me a second chance? Would Luna?” I added under my breath. Lyra heard me.

“I don’t care what they do.” She said, as if it was a matter of fact. “You’re my friend. I don’t care if you’ve done horrible things. You’re nice now. And you’re my teacher. If I can give you a second chance so can they.”

“That’s really ignorant of you, Lyra. You have no idea-”

“I don’t care!” She held on tighter. Damn this mare…

I heard a scratching sound. So did Lyra.

“Twilight, Stop!” Yelled Spike. “Now’s not the time for that!”

I looked to twilight and was absolutely shocked to find that she was levitating a quill and parchment and was transcribing the conversation. “W- what do you think you’re doing?” I asked. She quickly stopped. I peeled Lyra from me and took a step towards her. “Give me that.” She rolled the scroll up and gripped it tight.

“I’m going to send it, Prin-” I glared at her. “A- Artemis.” She said with a gulp. She cleared her throat. “The Princess, your wife, needs to know what was said here today. What you feel. That you’ve done something... something bad.” She looked at the letter. “If I send this,” A glimmer of hope appeared in her eyes. “Then she’ll know, and you can reconcile and be together again!”

I raised an eyebrow. “She’s not ready to know and I’m not ready to tell her. Aren’t you supposed to be my therapist? What happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?”

She looked uneasy. “I s- still think it’s the right-”

“Give me the letter, Twilight.” I said holding my hands out. She held it behind her back. I took another step towards her. “Now…”

She turned to Spike. “You need to send this to-”

“Give me the letter!” I lunged at her, but grabbed thin air. She had teleported to the other side of the room.

“No, Artemis!” Determination clear in her tone. “This is for the best. Spike come here.” I pointed my staff at her.

“Artemis, don’t!” Lyra shouted. Spike looked terrified. I ignored them both.

“Give me the letter. Now.” Twilight was staring at the tip of my staff with wide eyes. Then she looked to Spike. I have to give credit to Celly, she’s a damn good teacher. In about three seconds flat, Twilight Sparkle’s horn erupted in a bright, dark pink flash, teleporting Spike to her. She held the letter out in front of herself and stomped on his foot. Flame belched from Spikes mouth and just like that, the letter was whisked away towards the mountain city. I kept my staff pointed at her, staring in disbelief.

Spike backed up. “I- I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to! It’s an involuntary response!”

My hands started trembling, my breathing getting quicker and heavier. “Did Celestia know this would happen?” I asked the room. They were quiet. “Is that why she assigned her own student as my therapist? To keep tabs on me?” No, surely not, she wouldn’t do that… but she could have. What if Celestia actually intended for Twilight to send the letter when I had left and wouldn’t know about it? What if she didn’t, and she wanted me to know that she would be ‘listening in’ on my sessions? The conversation with her back at the cabin indicated that she was on her way to forgiving me, but was it all a lie? Is this a way for her to keep me on a leash? There’s no way she’d forgive me if she knew what I had done while I was ‘dead’.

My eyes lit up in realisation and I looked to Lyra. “You…”

Her eyes went wide. “Me?”

I grabbed her by her shirt collar and lifted her up so she was eye level with me. “You’re in on it with her, aren’t you?!”

Lyra was terrified now. “Wh- what are you talking about?” She choked. I shook her.

“You know damn well what! You’ve been coming to my cabin, asking me questions for weeks, then Celestia randomly shows up and instantly makes you my apprentice? She asked you to send her reports, didn’t she?”

“Artemis, I-” she was struggling to breathe.

“Don’t lie to me!” I shouted. She had tears in her eyes. So did I. “It’s way too much of a coincidence!” My breathing was getting heavier and heavier. I could feel the blood pumping in my ears.

I felt something grab my arm. “Artemis!” Twilight shouted with panic in her voice. “Put her down, you’re hurting her!”

I dropped Lyra who landed with a thud, whirled around, and pressed the tip of my staff to Twilight's neck. Her horn started to glow and I pumped more of my will into the staff, causing the green runes to glow and hum with an ominous light, disrupting her spell. I assume she was trying to teleport away. “You conniving bitch!” I yelled. Twilight was starting to cry now. “How dare you!” My vision started to cone. “I trusted you!” I turned to Lyra who was rubbing her neck. “I trusted both of you! I told you those things in confidence!”

“A- Artemis please!” Twilight said, trying not to think about her impending doom. “It’s not what you think!”

The fact that Celestia still wore the ring indicates that she still has some feelings for me… My legs felt like jelly. Could she still be wearing it to remind her of me after I ‘died’? Is that enough to prove that she still loved me? Or was she still wearing it to remind her of my betrayal towards her? How I left her to wallow in despair. To remind herself never to trust anyone like she trusted me, again? I was breathing so fast, yet it felt like I couldn’t get any oxygen. “She’s never going to want to see me again.” My vision was almost completely black now.

I felt a soft touch on my arm, turned, and saw Lyra looking at me with a smile. She gently pushed my arms down so that the staff wasn’t pointed at anyone. She slowly wrapped her arms around me and gave me the warmest hug I’ve had in years. “It’s alright.” She said. “It’s going to be okay.” I collapsed to the floor. She followed me down.

“I’m sorry.” I whispered.

“I know” She said, simply.

“I’m so sorry, Lyra.” My breathing started to slow. It was only the tears that where running fast now.

“I know.” She held onto me tightly.

The Library was silent apart from the sobs. Twilight couldn’t stop trembling. She had made the right choice... Hadn’t she? “Nice first session, Twilight.” Lyra said to her with a glare, sarcasm dripping from the words. “You really made a breakthrough.”

“I- I’m so sorry.” Twilight said. I could barely hear her she was so quiet. “She… She told me to-”

“To keep her updated right? Not spill everything Artemis said verbatim!” Said Lyra.

“I thought it would be best to-”

“Just stop, Twilight.” The library was quiet again, Lyra holding me on the floor.

“I can’t do this, Lyra.” I whispered to her. “I tried to be strong when she showed up at the cabin, but…” I got close to her ear so that only she would here me. “I’ve done things, Lyra. Terrible things.” Her breath Hitched. “I Didn’t have a choice. I’m not ready to tell her, Lyra. I’m not ready.”

“Yes, you are. I know you are.” She hugged tighter. “You just had a panic attack, but I’m here for you, Artemis. I’m not going anywhere.” I held onto her as if she was the only life raft around, and I was in the middle of a stormy sea. She stroked my head. “You may call yourself a failure, but I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. You were their protector. They are both alive and well. You succeeded in keeping them safe.” I let go of her.

“That doesn’t count for much when they both had to spend one thousand years alone.” I walked towards the front door and started off towards my home. Megan would be ashamed of me too. I’m going to have to visit her soon… When the door to the library closed. The ponies of Ponyville stopped as if someone had just pressed the pause button. They were all staring at me. I waved. “Um… Hi?” Panic. Running. Screaming. Pretty sure I heard someone shout about, ‘The Horror’. Ugh. I ignored them and kept walking.

Before I got to the treeline I was hit, very hard, from behind and sent tumbling face first into the ground. “Hey, what’s the big idea scaring ponies like that?!” A voice said. “What’s a monster like you doing out of the Everfree anyway?”

“What are you-” I tried to get up but was mushed back into the dirt by whatever hit me.

“Don’t move, buster.” The voice said. “We’re gonna stay right here until the guard arrives.” Oh, I don’t think so. In a quick bust of speed, I got my arms under me and pushed up to a standing position. “Wha- whoa!” The weight was pushed off my back and hit the ground with an ‘oof’.

It turns out the thing that hit me was actually the body of a Pegasus mare, and quite a small one at that. She was rubbing her arm after she landed on it. Damn, she must have been really booking it to knock me down like that. The mare was sky-blue, with poly-chromatic hair. She must be who I spotted earlier out the window… I sighed and reached my hand down to help her up. She looked at it warily, then relented and grabbed it.

“Thanks for getting my clothes dirty.” I said, brushing myself off. Now that she finally got a good look at me and was not trying acquaint my face with the ground, she was obviously scared. “What’s the matter?" Silence. I waved my hand in front of her face. "Never seen a Human before?” She continued to stare. I don’t have time for this… without a word I began to walk towards the tree line.

“Artemis!” I stopped and turned to look, running up to us from the town was Lyra.

“Hi, Lyra…” I said, rubbing the back of my head. “Sorry for breaking down like that earlier.”

The blue Pegasus snapped out it, and was looking between us in confusion. “Lyra? You know this monster?”

Lyra growled. Like, actually growled. Which genuinely surprised me. I wouldn’t think she was capable of such a thing. “She’s not a monster, Rainbow dash! Her name is Artemis. Just what do you think your doing, knocking her down like that?! What did she do to you?”

Rainbow got angry. “It was scaring the ponies in town! I wasn’t going to let it get away with that!”

Her!”

“Whatever!”

“Shut up!” I yelled. “Both of you.” I looked to my apprentice. “Lyra, I appreciate you trying to stick up for me but I’m not a kid, and despite what happened earlier, I’m not as vulnerable as you might think. A little tap to the back of the head isn’t going to keep me down.”

Rainbow folded her arms. “A little tap? Yeah right, I knocked you into the dirt. You’re not that tough.”

“I got back up didn’t I? like I said, its not gonna keep me down.”

“Whatever…” Rainbow grumbled.

“I’m gonna head back home now.” I said as I, once again, turned back towards the treeline. “Lyra if you could come by some time tomorrow, we’ll get started on your real training. As of right now, I kinda wanna be alone, so if you don’t mind.” I turned and started walking… again. That is until a hand grabbed my cloak to stop me. Ugh. I turned around. “For love of… what now!?” Rainbow and Lyra where in a deep bow as Princess Celestia stood, as radiant as ever, with Twilight Sparkle at her side who looked as though she had been scolded by her mother.

Celestia took on a warm smile. “Please rise my little ponies.” They did. “Would you two mind giving the three of us some privacy?” Rainbow and Lyra nodded and started to walk back to town. Celestia turned to me. “Hello, Artemis.”

“Princess.” I greeted. I could see the sting of me using her title evident on her face. I didn’t mean for that to hurt her… per se. But I didn’t know whether she meant for Twilight to send her detailed word-for-word transcripts of secrets and feeling I might divulge to her student – My therapist.

“I read a very interesting letter a few minutes ago…” She said.

So she did read it... “Did you now?” I replied, not taking my eyes off Twilight.

“Indeed.” She looked to her student. “Twilight, is there anything you wish to say?”

Twilight stepped forward with her hands behind her back. She looked like a puppy that had just been kicked. She took a deep breath. “Artemis. I am so, so sorry. This apology doesn’t make up for my behaviour back in the library, but I hope that you can accept it.” Her voice was becoming strained. “I should have listened to your wishes and gave you the letter or destroyed it. If you don’t want me as your Therapist anymore," She gave a sniffle. "Then I completely understand.”

God damn it… how am I supposed to stay mad at that? Ugh. “Well, at least you know why I was upset…” I thought for a moment. “If you promise to respect my boundaries and my wishes regarding correspondence with your mentor.” I looked at Celestia. “Then… Apology accepted. And I guess... I'm sorry for threatening you. If Celestia trusted you enough to assign you as my therapist…” I’m going to hate myself for this… “Then you can stay.” Twilight gave a meek smile.

Celestia Nodded, “Very well.” She looked to Twilight. She addressed her with her no-nonsense ‘Princess’ tone. “Twilight Sparkle.” Twilight looked to Celestia. “I hope you learned a valuable lesson from this. I would like a report detailing exactly what you learned on my desk by the end of the week, do you understand?” Twilight nodded.

“Although you are not a licensed therapist,” Celestia continued, “I placed a great deal of trust in you.” She looked to me, then back to Twilight. “We both did. But you broke that trust. However, it would seem as though Artemis has taken a liking to you-” Don’t speak for me. “-and given you a second chance. If I know her half as well as I think I do, there will not be a third.” Damn right. She turned to me. "And you, I do not appreciate you threatening the life of my student. It will not happen again, will it?"

"No." I simply said. She nodded.

Twilight took a step forward and held out her hand. “Artemis, I just want to say again how sorry I am. Can we start over?” I raised an eyebrow. “…Again?”

I rolled my eyes and shook her hand. I didn’t say anything.

“Twilight, don’t you think you should go get started on that report?” Celestia said to her, dropping an obvious hint that she wanted her to leave.

“Yes, Princess.” Was Twilight's simple reply as she walked off back towards the Golden Oaks.

Me and Celly waited for her to leave before she spoke up. “Artemis, I just want to apologise again for my student’s behaviour. I want you to know that my instructions where for her to ‘Keep me updated’ on your visits. Not give full reports on your sessions with her.” She sighed. “Perhaps I could have been a little more specific. That girl, honestly. She’s so bright and brilliant, but at the same time, so dense.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I replied. I really just wanted to go home.

“I also want you to know that I didn’t read all of the letter.” I cocked an eyebrow. “It's true, honest! Once I saw how detailed the letter was, I burned it in the fireplace.”

“Seriously?”

She laughed. “You may be my wife, but I’m not that controlling.” She closed the distance between us and placed a gentle hand on my arm. God, I’ve missed her touch… “If there’s anything you want to tell me, then I’m sure it will come to light eventually. I trust you, Artemis.” I didn’t say anything. I couldn't. Not now. She looked sad again. God damn it… “Well, I can see that you’re not in the mood to talk right now.” She started to walk away. “I'll let you get back to your-”

“Celly.” I said at a quiet volume. She stopped but didn’t turn. “Why did you keep the ring?” I could see her look down at her hands. Then start to fiddle with the left. She turned and looked to the forest.

“You were so close this entire time, and I had no idea…” I looked down in shame. Of course, she hasn’t forgiven me. Celestia seemed to pull herself together. “Artemis. There’s a reason I assigned that mare as your apprentice. Beyond helping you as a person, I mean.” I gave her a questioning look. “I need your help.” Now this is interesting… feels like old times. “Artemis…” She stepped very close and looked into my eyes. “Do you trust me?”

Even in one thousand years, she hadn’t changed. I could tell she was very worried. She’s been carrying this question for a long time. Longer than I know. Long enough for her to start having doubts about herself. Wondering if she had truly gone crazy from grief. Grief that I’m mostly to blame for... Her eyes where piercing my own. Did I trust her? This is Princess Celestia Sol. The Unconquered Sun. The Dawnbringer. My wife we’re talking about. Did I trust her?

“I do.” Her lip started to tremble. Her eyes where shimmering. She closed them and a single tear dropped to the ground. I could practically see the weight lift from her shoulders. How long had she been carrying that burden of doubt? Did she think that’s why I left?

She looked down at her entwined fingers with a smile. “You have no idea how much that means to me.” She looked around. “Come, let’s sit over here.” We walked over to a tall oak tree and sat in the midday shade. “Artemis, Twilight is a wonderful girl. I think of her as a daughter.” Wow, high praise. Twilight must be something else... When she's not being a moron. “But she is so stunted in her social growth. Of course, she has her friends here in Ponyville, but if she has to talk to a stranger, she looks like a lost puppy. It breaks my heart to see her like that. You on the other hand, pardon my Prench here, don’t give a shit what anybody thinks of you.” Anyone except you. “She will need not only your help, But the help of your apprentice on the road ahead. Just as you will need hers.”

“Where are you going with this?” I asked.

She was silent for a moment, looking at the town ahead. “I had a premonition.” That got my attention. My eyes snapped to her. If it was anyone else talking about a premonition, I’d tell them to keep their crazy to themselves. But anyone else is not an immortal Alicorn like Celestia. She’s had a few before. Maybe three or four times if I remember correctly, all with varying degrees of detail. The thing is though, every time, without fail, all the details in these premonitions of hers have come true.

She continued. “The last one I had, happened three hundred and twenty-three years ago. It told me about Luna's return, and how to prepare the elements of harmony again.”

“Wait, what’s that supposed to mean?”

She sighed. “When I sent Luna away. I lost my connection to the elements. That’s part of the reason I sent Twilight here to Ponyville. Her and her friends embody them perfectly. They are the reason Luna was separated from the parasite.”

I stared at her. “Are you telling me, that Equestria was defenceless for one thousand years? well…” I started to pluck some grass. “That makes me feel a million times more guilty for leaving…”

“As it should.” She said without missing a beat. I said nothing. “But that’s not entirely true, we had the guard.”

I resisted the urge to burst out laughing. And instead, opted for a snort. “The guard? Please.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Something you want to say?”

Uh oh, I’ve put my foot in it now. I fidgeted with a blade of grass I plucked. “Look, Celestia. The guard are great for ceremonies and for looking good to the other nations. And usually general peacekeeping. But…” Come on Artemis, think of something. “You’ve… done such a good job of ruling while I was gone, that there was no need for them to be trained to their fullest!” Nailed it.

Her eyebrow did not lower. “Are you offering up your services to the guard? Perhaps as an instructor?”

“No!” I said, a little too quickly. Her eyebrow finally lowered.

“Regardless, we’re getting off topic. Around half a year ago, I had one of the worst fevers of my entire life. I had a fever dream; The dream showed the very stars themselves Blinking from existence. It showed the entire world shrouded in darkness, it showed flora and fauna alike withering and dying. Great sheets of ice, hundreds of metres thick, covering the land.”

“That sounds suspiciously like eternal night. No, not eternal night… eternal darkness.” She was looking at me, waiting for me to finish. I gave her a perplexed look. “I thought Luna was purged from the parasite?”

“She was. Trust me, if it was still there, I would have noticed. I actually started Twilight on the magical survey of the Everfree to try to find some sort of disturbance that might lead to this destiny. But instead, she found you. Quite fortuitous, no? One could almost say it was fate... ”

“Go on.” I prompted.

She took on a more determined expression. “If you truly trust me like you say you do, and like I hope you do. Then you won’t ask questions when I say that I have plans for Twilight Sparkle. Plans that have been years in the making and are in play as we speak. I need you and your apprentice to work together, along with Twilight and the rest of the elements of harmony, to find whatever is seeking to bring this future to pass, and destroy it.

Lyra Heartstrings is strong. I can sense it. Even with her disability, I’m sure you can train her. I ask that from this point on, you will be her guide on the remaining length of path I have set us upon. You, Twilight and Lyra will be an unstoppable force. The protectors of this world. Just like you used to be, my Princess.” My heart fluttered. “I ask that you help me change the future my premonition showed me, and help save this world from everlasting darkness. That is why I need your help.”

Wow. That was a lot to take in. “Celestia, I don’t really know what to say. Is Lyra really that important that you assigned her to me? Can we even change the future? Your premonitions have never been wrong.”

Celestia stood and walked a few steps ahead. In the distance, there where three foals playing together by an apple tree. “You know…” She was twisting the ring on her finger. “I had given up hope of ever seeing you again.” I said nothing. Just listening. “I thought you were dead.” What made this hurt so much, was that when I left, that was my goal, to make her believe I was dead. But seeing her like that only made me realise what a fool I had been.

She continued, not looking at me. “And although I know where your sister is buried.” I swallowed. “I had no idea where you were. Did you find happiness and peace? Or where you dead in a ditch, in some star-forsaken part of the world. That was the worst part. The not-knowing.” I kept silent. “I had given up hope.” She hugged herself. “And back at your cabin…” Her voice was trembling. “I lectured you about giving up on me. I shouted. I… I struck you…” her hands trembled and she covered her face. “How could I do such a thing?” I stood behind her and placed my hand gently on her shoulders. I could feel her tense. “I struck you because you gave up on me, yet I went and did the exact same thing to you. I’m such a hypocrite.”

I pulled her into a hug from behind. “I cannot tell you just how sorry I am... But It doesn’t matter now. I’m here. You’re here. Things worked out! Things will work out. I trust you.”

“I don’t deserve this.”

I held on tight and whispered in her ear. “Tough.” We stayed quiet for a minute, me holding her. She turned around. She was getting closer. Slowly. Painfully. We started into each other’s eyes. I could feel her breath on my skin until finally… our lips touched. Although it was not a kiss of passion, more like a high-schooler's first nervous kiss behind the bleachers, electricity shot up my spine. And I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she still loved me.

It ended. All too soon. “Do you remember our first?” She said in a whisper. Still so close.

“How could I forget?” I said with a chuckle. “How did you know I’d return your feelings back then?”

She stepped back from me, and with a twinkle in her eye said, “I used to be quite the gambler back in the day. Remember?”

I snorted. “Yep. I remember.” I never did get that sword back…

She stepped back further. “I dont know if we can change the future, Artemis. But there's nothing stopping us from trying." She took on her 'Princessly' tone. "I need to meet with you and your apprentice in Canterlot at your earliest convenience.” Back to business, eh?

“That’s fine.” I said. “But I’m tired, and I want to go home.”

“Very well.” She started to walk towards Ponyville. “Come along, there’s a chariot waiting to take us to Canterlot.”

I stayed where I was. “Very funny.” I said, crossing my arms.

She turned and raised an eyebrow. “I’m perfectly serious.”

“So am I. I don’t want anything to do with that marble monstrosity on the mountain.” I looked back towards the treeline. “Although, you could always come back with me to our cabin.”

She snorted. “Please, I don’t want anything to do with distillery in the woods. It may have been ours once, but I can’t stay there.”

I nodded. “Fair enough.”

“One thing I will say though…” she said with a knowing look.

“What?”

She pointed to the pocket with the flask in it and smirked. “I didn’t see you reach for it once when we were talking.”

My eyes lit up in realisation and I patted the cloak pocket, feeling the liquid slosh inside the flask. Then, smirked right back at her. “That’s because you’re just that intoxicating.” Yep, still got it.

She put a hand up to her mouth to stifle her laughter. “Seriously? That was terrible!” I wiggled my eyebrows. “Go!” I turned to leave when she got my attention again. “Artemis?” I turned to look at her. She had a pink tinge to her cheeks. “I’m really glad your back.”

Author's Note:

Thank you so much to everyone who is commenting, liking, or even just glancing at my story. I am trying to take your criticisms on board, so please dont be afraid to tell me what you think, be it good or bad. I want to improve!
Peace and love.

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