• Published 6th Nov 2020
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A Clash of Magic and Steam - law abiding pony

The Fire of Friendship that once united ponykind has all but faded. One thousand years ago, Equestria fractured... those who disagreed with Celestia's rule left under the leadership of Princess Luna to found their own nation, their own way of life.

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Chapters Next
1: A Life Denied, a Friend Given

Canterlot stood as it had for a millennium, a gleaming monument of marble and magic. Tall spires sitting on curved terraces suspended from a mountainside so sheer that only magic could keep them from falling away. While dominated primarily by unicorns, members of most known pony tribes plied its streets and skies. The city had stood for a thousand years as a testament to ponykind’s enduring strength, force of magic, and courage. This was a legacy its inhabitants planned to endure for a thousand more.

Almost lost among the busy streets of cobblestone was an off-white and gold carriage. It was pulling away from the Celestial Academy of Gifted Ponies, likely to never go under the venerable building’s shadow again.

A ten year old Twilight Sparkle was wailing into her mother’s forelegs as Twilight Velvet whispered calming assurances. Her father, Night Light, was an older unicorn stallion with only a dash of grey in his dark blue fur. He fumed silently as he stared out of the carriage’s door window. He didn’t want his daughter to see his bitter disappointment over the news, lest the child blame herself further. The din of Canterlot was muffled by spellwork so nothing would disturb the bemoaning family.

“I can’t believe they didn’t even bother seeing her,” Velvet angrily whispered to her husband. She was a deep grey pegasus who wore her mane in a flamboyant braid. “She would have been a sixth generation student! How dare they! I should get Shining Armor to have a word with that headmaster, then we’ll see who’s not stepping hoof inside those halls ever again!”

“The last war changed things, Velvy.” Night Light took out a smoking pipe, but didn’t light it. He had quit ages ago, but still, he liked to chew on it. “Word has it Queen Corona’s going to announce the academy’s going to be turned into a warmage academy by week's end. Apparently with the outreach programs being cut, the rumors were true. She wants the curriculum to focus on unicorns with enough power to punch through the thaumic disruption field, and that…” He couldn’t finish, not after catching the waterlogged, reddened eyes of his observant daughter. “That simply means Twily is destined to finish her education elsewhere, that’s all.”

As her sobbing intensified, arcs of electricity danced uncontrollably over Twilight’s horn. The young filly was a halfbreed… a winged unicorn with the crippled power of both. A horn that was a dysfunctional conduit for pegasus magic, and wings which could not draw upon it. Those same wings completely lacked feathers. Only the three wing-fingers upon each wing remained, bereft of the down and vanes regular pegasi wings possessed. She and all those like her were cursed to be known as demicorns.

Velvet felt torn between oppressive guilt over her daughter, and a mother’s concern for her son going to the next inevitable war. She wrapped a wing around Twilight and hugged tighter. “It’s my fault she doesn’t have the body she should. Shining got off lucky, but—”

Night Light used his magic to keep Twilight’s lightning grounded to the floor before joining in the hug as well. “My dear, don’t blame yourself for what fate struck her with. We knew the risks of marrying outside our tribes. But I should have never let her become my little assistant. Maybe her magic could have developed normally, and she would—”

Twilight wiped the eye that wasn’t buried in her mother’s dress. “But I like helping you at work, daddy!”

A sad smile crossed her father’s mouth, and he leaned in to nuzzle her briefly. “And a big help you are, Purple Spot.” He nuzzled the back of her neck, trying unsuccessfully to elicit some giggles. “If you want, we could try the Dawn Youth. They still have outreach-”

Velvet held Twilight tighter out of instinctual fear. “Absolutely not. You know what kind of graduates they produce. Besides, they may not admit it, but they are exclusively unicorns anyway. No better than the academy now.”

“Alright dear,” Night Light replied while trying to placate her with a brief nuzzle. “It was just a thought. We could still try next year, I still have the ear of some of the queen’s advisors. Maybe I can make them see the importance of these programs for morale purposes.”

Velvet stroked Twilight’s mane and took a long deep breath. “If the academy’s already at the point of refusing Twilight’s enrollment, then the conversion is too far along for your word to have any sway.”

Giving a regretful sigh of his own, Night Light thought it over a bit. “Maybe we can send her to Baltimare Academy. You have a lot of business dealings there, we can move if need be. Or perhaps a tutor would help more. The best Canterlot can offer!”

Velvet sadly shook her head at Night Light, but didn’t say a word.

Fear of seeing those prejudiced faces again struck Twilight to the core, and her self-consciousness made her jerk away from her mother to furiously shake her head. “No, I don’t wanna go to school, they’ll laugh at me just like the others did!”

Velvet roped her into a hug. “The faculty did not laugh, Twily. We were all there.”

“They did it with their eyes.” Twilight hung her head in utter shame, tears and sniffles filled the carriage as the adults went silent.

Velvet and Night Light shared a silent conversation until he spoke up. “Then we don’t need them. If formal education is off the table then there’s always the traditional way: apprenticeship. How would you like becoming my full time assistant, what do you say?”

Twilight’s sniffles stopped and she looked up at him with hope. “Really?!” The first real smile of the day flashed on her face.

“Not so fast, you two,” Velvet said, interrupting Night Light’s cheerful reply. A mother knew distraction was the best way to bring a child back up, and she wouldn’t let the opportunity pass for directing Twilight’s aspirations. “You will need a more rounded education than just your father’s work. You will work with me as well to learn how to balance the books of the estate and learn mercantilism. Along with a tutor for other things.”

“Why would book balancing be a job?”

Velvet snickered and tightened her hug on her daughter, but kept talking to her husband. “Celestia above knows you stallions could never stay afloat without me even with the crown’s grant money. Only she knows how you kept your estate before you married me.”

“Of course, dear. Right, Purple Spot?”

“Uhh, I guess so,” Twilight wasn’t sure what was now expected of her, but the conviction in her mother’s voice was enough to know she was still important, still loved.

The crowds of Canterlot eventually faded away as the carriage went along the isolated road around to the northeastern side of the Canterhorn. There, far away from any other manor, was the Sparkle Estate. A respectable gated manor with terraces granting them more garden land from the mountain side. A little further back was a structure that was half the size of the manor, looking more akin to a warehouse than anything you would normally find on such an estate. Unlike the city itself, absolutely no magic was required to keep the estate from gravity’s pull.

The cobblestone road came to a circular end in front of the manor, but Night Light initially waved the coachman off from opening the door right away. He whispered into his wife’s ear. Twilight tried to listen, but couldn’t make it out.

Velvet glanced past her husband to see outside. She adopted a firm look. “Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.”

Trusting her, Night Light at last nodded to the coachman who quickly opened the carriage door for them. Night Light stepped out first, followed by Velvet and Twilight. Up close, the manor had a marble flagstone courtyard with matching marble columns that stood before the pale red bricked home that sported curtained windows all along the face. The family butler was a dignified older earth stallion of brown fur and silver mane, and wore an immaculate black jacket. His poise spoke of the pride in his work. Next to him, shaking in terror was a young pink earth filly, no older than Twilight herself. Her slightly darker pink mane had a pair of striking blue and green streaks in her hair, marking her as a servant.

As Twilight ran over to stand between her parents, as was proper, the family was met halfway by the butler and his charge. Twilight briefly glanced behind her as the coachman barked orders to the two stallions pulling the carriage.

“Sir, My Lady, I… take it things did not go as hoped?” he added with concern.

Twilight wanted to start crying again, but she was a noblefilly, and a proper filly of any age did not cry over such things in front of servants and staff.

Night Light gave a halting nod, but it was Velvet who took over. “Afraid so, Benningstone. But it may be for the best.” Velvet stroked the side of Twilight’s barrel to encourage her to stay strong. “Twilight would have been surrounded by negativity there anyway. Her destiny will most likely follow her father’s, but I will be giving her an education in trade. A mind like my little dimple should take to money handling like a fish to water.”

Benningstone’s gaze went down to the young filly. “Rewarding and respected positions both. Count yourself lucky Mistress Twilight Sparkle, dare I say either will be more rewarding than traditional schooling.”

“Well spoken,” Night Light commented with an upbeat tone. Ideas were already coming to life, making him have the same left-sided twitch Twilight saw anytime he was in thought.

“Indeed,” Velvet added, before looking down at the silent pink filly that was trying to look insignificant. Her voice took on a commanding presence that Twilight instinctively heeded. “In either case, Twily, you will need a personal assistant to aid you, and you are of age for your first one.” She pointed a hoof at the pink filly who barely restrained a frightful tremble. “Introduce yourself.”

Managing to curtsy with the expected depth, and casting her eyes at the ground, the pink one was somehow able to keep the fear of slighting them out of her tone. “Greetings, Mistress Twilight Sparkle, I am Pinkamena Diane Pie, grateful servant of the dawn. I am here to serve you in all things until Celestia above accepts my final rest.”

Surprise caught Twilight flat-footed. “Ahh, oh, um,” Twilight stepped up as was rehearsed, but she had not expected to ever actually receive a servant, let alone today of all times. “Thank you for your service, Pinkamena Diane Pie, know that your grandchildren—”

“Just children,” Night Light corrected.

“C-children,” Twilight flushed red for a moment, “will have your efforts to thank for their freedom.” Now that Twilight was close enough, she studied the servant more closely. Her mane was depressingly straight, and the two stripes of blue and green streaks were unnatural and moved independently from her hair swaying in the wind. The magic in them made sure both stripes were always visible to anyone looking at her. The child had a weakly controlled impassive face that kept straying into frightful sniffles.

Twilight couldn’t help but to feel guilty, even though she couldn’t understand why. “Do you-” Twilight stopped herself from asking to play. Servants were not treated like staff employees. She was supposed to be distant. Shining always makes me feel better when we play. “Can you help me find a book?”

The two fillies walked through the manor’s halls to the attached library on the east wing. Twilight’s glum mood threatened to return, but Pinkamena held it at bay with her presence alone. Twilight knew the way by heart so she kept stealing glances at Pinkamena.

The earth filly was marveling at the tall ceilings, hanging art and the occasional bust of the Light family member. That astonishment came to a sudden halt when Pinkamena finally noticed Twilight watching her. She flattened her ears and automatically locked her eyes at the ground with just enough of Twilight in her peripheral sight so she wouldn’t wander off.

That reaction deeply unsettled Twilight who came to a dead stop and turned to face Pinkamena. The servant filly in turn started shivering in anticipation of getting scolded. “I’m sorry, Mistress, I just I-I just…” Pinkamena clapped her mouth shut and hid behind her arrow straight hair.

Twilight’s first reaction was to look around for an adult’s guidance, but they had already reached the library and no other ponies were even within eyesight. The mental controls in Pinkamena’s mane were so trusted, Twilight’s parents had left the fillies to their own devices. When Twilight realized she was on her own, she came to the most logical conclusion for her: it was a test. A test to do what though?

A servant is not a friend, echoed her father in Twilight’s mind. Respect them as a pony and for their service, but no further.

Twilight might very well have followed that advice to the letter, if she was older. But here, all the ten year old noble scion could see was a filly her age on the verge of tears. Just like she had been not even half an hour prior. “What’s wrong?” Was the proper first question to any problem, as her father taught her.

It was not said harshly or in judgement, but genuine concern. That got the fellow blank flank to swallow to steady her lip and stare up so she was looking at Twilight’s nose and no higher. “I’m sorry for looking around.”

It took a moment for Twilight to realize that Pinkamena was actually serious. “Why would that be a problem?”

“You didn’t give permission. I shouldn’t look where my masters might have things best not seen.”

“But ugh…” such a thing was anathema to the little scholar. Twilight had real difficulty understanding why anyone would think that. “Well that’s totally bananas. If you really think that, then from now on, look wherever, whenever. You gotta know what’s going on around you, right?”

Just briefly, Pinkamena looked Twilight in the eye in bewilderment, but instantly shot her eyes back down. However, she didn’t look like she was about to cry now. “As you wish, Mistress.”

Averting one’s gaze didn’t sit well with Twilight. Outside of her family and the house staff, no one wanted to really look at Twilight. She didn’t see it coming from Pinkamena as a sign of respect, no, she saw it as the same reason no one else willingly looked at her if they didn’t have to. Well Pinkamena was her personal servant, and this time, Twilight wouldn’t stand for it. She hardened her features and shouted, “Look at me!”

Pinkamena jumped to attention. That was the tone of voice she was used to. She was quick to obey, and finally looked Twilight in the eyes. “Yes, Mistress!”

The trembling in Pinkamena’s eyes and shivering hooves derailed Twilight's spark of resentment. She finally realized Pinkamena was terrified of her. Twilight didn’t know how to respond to that. Even if Pinkamena was a servant, she didn’t want her to be scared. “Sorry I yelled.” Twilight prided herself on being a good girl, and scuffed the floor in shame. “I just don’t like it when ponies make fun of me for my wings.”

“Your… wings?” Pinkamena stumbled when her training failed to have a more proper reply. “I thought you were a unicorn.”

Twilight honestly didn’t want to reveal her useless wings. Wish I knew you thought I was a unicorn. I’d just hide them. She could still try to lie, lean into Pinkamena’s assumption, but even a child as young as her knew that would never work for long. And now that Pinkamena was actually looking at Twilight, no one could have missed the bulges on her sides.

However, it was surely still possible to have Pinkamena sent back to wherever she came from. If she was going to be like so many others and look down on her for what she was, then Twilight would just make do without a personal servant.

Even with that chosen course of action, Twilight was still nervous about showing off. “Well, I’m not. I’m actually a - a demicorn.” Having said that, Twilight turned to the side and unfurled a featherless wing, and spread her three fingers out barely wide enough to reveal them.

It was not the expected distaste that settled on Pinkamena’s face, or the neutral, completely impassive expression the adult servants and staff had. Instead, Pinkamena looked at her in amazement. Her eyes went wide and her ear finally stood upright. “You’re an alicorn?!”

Twilight’s face burned red and she quickly folded the wing back. “I wish. I said I’m a…” Twilight’s grew resentful in anticipation for the undoubtably coming disgust from Pinkamena. She grumbled and shook her head. “Never mind. Doesn’t matter.” She quickly tucked her wings back to her barrel.

Pinkamena‘s sunken mood evaporated, and she gingerly walked over to inspect Twilight’s spindly, folded wings. Twilight furrowed her brow and scowled trying to look scary, but Pinkamena was solely focused on Twilight’s wing. “May I see them again, please?”

That was a first. No one had ever wanted to see her wings before, not even Twilight herself. Well, if she doesn’t like it then I can get daddy to send her back to wherever she came from. Bolstered with the promise of petty revenge, Twilight unfurled her wing, much to Pinkamena’s delight.

A bright smile that looked at home on Pinkamena’s face lit up and she started bouncing in a tight circle. “Wowsers, that is sooo cool. I wish I had wing hands, I could-” In an instant, her hyperactivity cut off like a switch. She planted her hooves again and reverted to a much calmer, but pleasant demeanor. “Sorry, Mistress, I get over excited sometimes.”

“Ahhh, That's okay...” Twilight folded her wings back in place. “You don’t think it’s gross?”

“Why would it be gross?” Pinkamena asked with a tilted head. Good cheer was creeping back on her face now that her fear over Twilight was fading away. “I could do all sorts of stuff if I had those. Like baking with mitts, write without using my mouth, handstands, hold a candle without the flame burning my eyes, and-and-” Pinkamena rattled off more and more examples, faster and faster with each word. Her speech started going so fast her words ran together until she acted as if she hit a brick wall and stopped short. “Oh sorry, got over excited again.”

Twilight was left speechless. Not from Pinkamena’s hyperactivity, but the positivity of it. Directed at her wings of all things. “I never thought about it.” Twilight stared at her open wing as if for the first time. Could she actually do all those things? She looked back up at the smiling servant with the same shocked expression, yet managed to regain her composure a bit. “I um. Thank you. So uhh. Where are you from?” If one pony had no problems with demicorns, then Twilight needed to know where there might be more.”

Pinkamena shook her head, and some of the curls in her mane started to straighten back out. “I lived on a rock farm with my family before…” Pinkamena blinked and came up short for a moment. “Umm, before I was taken to the Matron. So I didn’t go very far outside of that.” A sadness crept in behind the veneer of a smile. She could barely remember her parents and sisters’ faces, but she could not recall their names at all. Oh how dearly she wished she could. Now she was alone, save for the noble filly in front of her.

For Twilight, the house wasn’t the same since her dearest brother Shining Armor left for the army. She had no one to confide with. No one to vent her frustrations to without parental judgement and lectures. But. Just perhaps, the servant filly before her could fill the void as best she could.

Dragging a hoof along the plush carpet in a circle, Twilight worked up the courage to ask, “do you happen to like reading Nieghzsche?”

Later that day around dusk, Twilight sat alone with a book about Pinkamena’s original people on the cliffs near the estate garden. The wind was strong here, and Twilight kept her book safe with some smooth stones to weigh the pages down. The high winds tossed her mane around and she had her wings flared out so she could feel the air crossing them. She often found her focus was stronger this way as the wind crossing her wings brought a sense of calm that stopped the recurring arcs of lightning from her horn.

Between chapters, she closed her eyes and pretended to be in the air, flying alongside the Winged Corps defending Equestria from the bandits and troublemakers of Lunaria. During these breaks from reading, she often tried to imagine what it was like to have feathers. To feel the rush of wind across them.

As typically happened, the wrinkle of pages in the wind drew her attention back to Lunarian Enstripement, and her focus returned in earnest.

Time always rushed by when she read, and by now the hour was indeed getting late. The sun was touching the horizon when the gentle clip of hooves on stone brought Twilight’s attention to her approaching mother. Initial joy at seeing Velvet surged tenfold when she saw the harness Velvet was wearing. Twilight squealed in excitement and hastily moved the stones out of the way so she could close the book, then put the stones back on to keep the precious tome safe.

“A lovely sunset, isn’t it Twily?” Velvet asked with a smile that bespoke more of relief than anything else.

“Uh huh! Can we go higher today?!” Twilight flapped her useless wings trying to jump onto Velvet’s back so she could strap into the harness.

Velvet looked behind Twilight to make sure the potentially expensive book was safe. She caught the title of the book, creating a spark of curiosity. “We’re going to do something special tonight, but first… what were you reading?”

If there was anything that could match her love of flight, it was reading. Twilight scampered over to the book, gently removed the paperweights, and presented the book to her mother with a smile by using her wings as hands. “I wanted to find out more about ‘Those Born Under Moonlight’ and why they are servants. So Pinkamena and I found this!”

Velvet accepted the book and flipped through the pages. She shook her head and put it down after she saw the legalese. “Surely you could have found something that could explain it better for somepony your age.”

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked as she tilted her head so one ear was closer to Velvet’s face. “I can read it,” she added with defiant conviction cracking her voice.

“I’m sure you can, little spark.” Velvet sat down and cradled Twilight with a wing. The filly leaned into the affection, but kept her eyes and ears fixed on her mother. “Twily, the stripes are servants because they are either criminals or the unwanted from Lunaria.”

“Criminals?” Twilight tried to jump back, but Velvet held her close with her wing. “You mean Pinkamena is—”

“Shhh, little one. You are perfectly safe around her. The stripes in her hair help keep any harmful thoughts away. The friendlier the color, the less restrictive the reformation is.” Velvet laid down so she would be eye level with her daughter. “We picked her for you because her colors mean she is well suited to be your assistant. Have faith in the stripes to keep you safe.” Twilight smiled and nodded. So wondrous the mind of a child is. How malleable they can be.

“Yes, mommy. Can we go flying now? Pleeease!!” She pulled out of Velvet’s hug to start grabbing at the harness.

“Only until the moon rises. It’d be just our luck the Night Witch would snatch us away given half a chance.” Velvet stood up and helped Twilight get on her back, allowing the filly to do the rest. Once she heard the sound of belts tightening and felt Twilight clamping down with all four legs, Velvet bent down and flapped hard. Both of them skyrocketed up. Velvet was used to Twilight flaring her own wings out, and adapted to the disturbance easily.

Velvet may have been getting along in years, but she still pulled off some rolls and a flip or two. With each turn and maneuver, Twilight angled or tilted her wings to match her mother. Though she was breathing laboriously and her wings ached faster than they used to, Twilight’s happiness kept Velvet going long after she would have quit.

Eventually, when only a sliver of sun was above the horizon, Velvet came to a landing on a cloud overlooking the estate. Twilight looked around and after deeming the edges of the cloud to be safe enough, she undid the straps with her wing-fingers and jumped off. Unlike her mother who depressed the cloud only an inch or so, Twilight sank to her knees. She had to keep her hooves moving, but she was able to climb up to her fetlocks so she could walk around. As her mother practically collapsed onto her belly to rest, Twilight drank in the sights of the world below, oblivious to her mother’s pains. An ancient instinct made her wings twitch with anticipation of the rush of flight once more. The lights of the Sparkle Estate were blocked by a large, mostly stationary cloud much further down, but she could see the glow behind it.

“Thank you so much, momma!” Twilight bounced on her cloud, her wings flailing before she thought to tuck them back in. “Do you think I’ll ever be able to do that?”

Velvet had been dreading this day. It was a mother’s duty to see her child grow, not to coddle them. “Twilight, I know the sky calls to you, but…” The truth can be cruel. To a child, it can be scarring for life, and yet, it was unavoidable. It had to be said. “You will never fly, not on your own power.”

Ears fell flat and a shaky frown started forming. The child was too smart for her own good. Twilight knew it was true, but childish hope had clung to the adults finding a way. “...Why am I broken?”

“You are not broken, Twilight Sparkle,” Velvet declared with enough authority to rattle the young filly. “Others may call you that, I know they have, but you can show them differently.”

“But they’re right, aren’t they? You said it yourself that I can’t fly.” Tears were welling up. Twilight tried to look away to cry, but Velvet used a wing to keep her daughter’s head high.

“You are not broken,” Velvet repeated more confidently, “just rare.” With a hoof, Velvet gently pulled Twilight’s featherless wing forward so the filly could see it. “Demicorns like you are a strong and inventive tribe. Wings, horns, and hooves are tools, Twilight, no less than your mind. You must learn how to thrive with the tools you have, and not cry over the ones you don’t.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Twilight replied with no enthusiasm. Velvet let go, allowing Twilight to refold her wing and finally looked away in shame.

Velvet’s jaw hardened. The fire of the pegasus armadas of old still roared strong in her tribe, fueled by the wars of the past thousand years. She stood up to her full height, and kicked the cloud so it rocked a bit. “I will not allow you to grow up a sputtering candle.”

Bewildered, Twilight looked up to suddenly cower before the stern, almost glowering face of her mother.

“Stand up!” Velvet commanded sharply.

Fear overrode self-pity and Twilight jumped to her hooves, and her thoughts came to a halt.

“Twilight Sparkle, every pegasus from the dawn of time to today must learn to spread her wings and soar. We have always been the warriors of Equestria, and that means we must stand strong against a hurricane if we have to.”

“B-but, I can’t soar or fly.” Twilight’s courage threatened to fumble before it could even stand.

“Not in the skies, but in life,” Velvet clarified. She swept a wing out towards Canterlot and the few traces of light that still remained as the day came to a close. “Do you think there has never been a pegasus with damaged wings before? Or that a city of marble and gold as old as ours can rest on the side of a mountain without hard work? Magic bends and breaks the world to fit our designs, our will. You must use your strength and will to forge a path that will allow you to soar. Starting tonight.”

Velvet took to the air and hovered just off the cloud where Twilight remained.

“Wait, don’t leave me here! I can’t get down!”

“You have a choice, Twilight.” Velvet kept her matronly command voice, instilling a note of trepidation on top of Twilight’s anxiety of being abandoned. “You can stay here all night where it is safe, or you can jump and join me on the cloud below.”

“Jump?!” Was all Twilight heard. Her wings snapped closed and sudden terror gripped her. “W-what if I get really hurt? Or I don’t make it?”

“Twily.” Velvet floated over so she was eye level with her daughter. She bore an iron glare that pulled Twilight’s attention and would not let go. When she spoke, her tone demanded to be remembered. “Life is full of hardship and pain. You will fall, and you will get hurt. What is most important is that you try, and you get back up again.

“The armada of old does not care if you can fly or not.” Velvet flared her right wing at the darkening sky where the first stars were beginning to appear. “Clipped Razor became a hero against the griffins long after he lost a wing, and we remember his name since before Equestria was founded. Be like him, find another way to soar, another way to make both our ancestors, and Celestia proud.”

“Another way?” Twilight somehow managed to tear her eyes away from Velvet to look at her frightfully bony wing.

“Yes.” Velvet declared as she came in to land again. She cradled the small wing in a hoof, and gently ran the edge of a feather against Twilight’s fingers. “Fate may have given you a body others find distasteful, but in return it gave you a keen mind. Leverage your mind and the fire in your heart to reforge the tools you’ve been given to soar.” She took to the air once more, and moved towards the estate below. “The armada is watching, Twilight. Show them the courage I know you have. Show Celestia above you will not be cowed.”

Being honest with herself, parts of her mother’s speech went over Twilight’s head. But she was old and smart enough to get the idea. It was a test. A test to see if I am worthy of the family name. Was that accurate? Was this moment a point between remaining in the family or being sidelined and married off at the soonest convenience and forgotten about? Or was she overthinking it again?

Whatever the case, Twilight felt an ember kindle in her heart. She moved to the edge of the cloud. She briefly looked to her stone-faced mother then down to the cloud below. It looked so far away, and too far forward. And yet, that ember ignited into the same fire that had pushed her winged ancestors to be the masters of the battlefield. The sheer drop felt different now. It was an obstacle that dared her to overcome it, promising death should she fail.

Her mother, all but forgotten in this moment, flew away and out of sight. She circled back so she could hide under Twilight’s cloud, waiting to see what kind of person her daughter would choose to be.

Slowly, carefully, Twilight stepped up to the farthest point of the cloud she could go and tightened her wings against her barrel. Her mind was zeroed in on the moment. She had no math to fall back on. No useful experience on how to survive should she fail. That’s the point. This was her test. “I failed the one at the school without even getting a chance.”

It was a bitter taste, still painfully fresh now that Velvet forced her to confront it. There was no book to hide behind, only her and the bitterly cold mountain air. “I’ll never fail again.” Twilight defiantly unfurled her featherless wings, for all the good they would do, and jumped.

Author's Note:

Took long enough to get this all out and ready to go, but this time around, I have several chapters good to go, so I will be giving out weekly updates for nine more chapters. Hope you all enjoy the ride!

Also, I know full well some of you might cry foul on wing-fingers, but they are canon. I present to you exhibit A:

Not enough? Then these exhibits as well! https://www.derpibooru.org/search?q=winghands%2C+screencap&sf=score&sd=desc

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