• Published 27th Aug 2012
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Live by the Creed - FoughtDragon01



Rainbow Dash discovers a dark secret in her family's past that could change her life forever.

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2: A Groundbreaking Rediscovery

Where could a pony expect to find Princess Celestia in the wee hours of the morning? Most go for the obvious answer and say that she was asleep, conserving her energy to raise the sun when the time came. Others thought that Celestia, being the all-powerful deity that she was, didn't need sleep, and instead wandered the halls of her castle, perhaps even going out into her grand garden for an early morning stroll.

From the plausible, to the unlikely, to the downright absurd, everypony had some sort of theory about what Celestia did in her free time. Unfortunately, not many even came close to the truth.

In reality, Celestia could be found within the depths of the castle's library, hunched over a desk. Shelves upon shelves containing thousands of books stood tall all around her, like a forest of literature. But out of the countless books surrounding her, Celestia was only concerned with one. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just a simple white leather book with a blank cover.

With her time to raise the sun less than an hour away, the princess devoted her time to reading that one book, frantically scanning her eyes across the pages. However, despite the speed at which Celestia was reading, she stopped after only eight pages, flipped back to where she started, and read those same pages again. She did this again and again, absorbing every word and image until they were practically burned into her brain.

In truth, the princess had already finished the book multiple times, but these eight pages were the ones that she kept coming back to. She wasn't reading them because they were fun or because they interested her. In fact, Celestia would have liked to forget that this book even existed. She would've liked to throw it away, burn it, or banish it to the moon. She would've liked to do any one of these things.

But she couldn't.

As ruler, it was her responsibility to be aware of any and all potential threats to Equestria. That was why she read these particular pages so intently and so frequently, to keep herself from forgetting about the terrible items they discussed, as well as the power that they possessed.

These eight pages were actually four pairings of an image and a description of that image.

The first was a shroud as white and light as a cloud capable of healing any wound, birth defect, disease, or ailment short of death. The next was a staff of pure gold that could bend the will of any and all living things. The third was a sword of the same gold that granted its wielder immense strength.

The last, and most peculiar, was an object simply referred to as 'The Apple'. It was a golden ball with strange engravings around its surface that possessed a range of functions, from causing insanity, to cloning its user, to granting its user's ultimate desires. If any of these items fell into the wrong hooves or claws, it could potentially doom all of Equestria.

Thankfully, she already had three of these items sealed away in underground shrines all throughout Equestria, but it was the last one, the Apple, that completely eluded her. Until she recovered it, what was to stop it from falling into the possession of someone looking to overthrow her? What was to stop someone from finding it and using it to undo all of the work she's done over the past one thousand years? The very thought haunted her for far too long. She needed to do everything within her power to retrieve it, but where would she begin?

"Celestia?"

Celestia jerked her head up and turned around, only to find Luna standing in the library's doorway, an eyebrow arched in confusion.

“What are you doing in here?”

Celestia quickly regained her composure before the younger alicorn could suspect anything and gave her a warm smile. "Nothing, dear sister. I'm simply reading."

Instead of calming her down, it only seemed to interest Luna even more. "Really? Reading what, exactly?" she asked, coming closer.

Celestia quickly pushed the book behind her. "I doubt you'd find it to your liking. It's a… book on politics."

Hearing the word 'politics' made Luna stop dead in her tracks. Just the mere thought of the word threatened to bore her into an early nap. "Politics? Never mind, then. Still, if you don't mind me asking, what are you doing up so early?"

"Oh, you know how it goes. Sometimes I just have one of those nights."

Luna only cocked her head to the side. "'Those nights'?"

"Yes, sometimes I just feel I need to start my day with a good book before the work rushes in."

"A good book? But you're reading a book on politics."

"Preferences, Lulu. Preferences."

Luna just rolled her eyes. "Well, since you're awake, would you care to join me for an early breakfast?"

The mention of breakfast made Celestia's stomach growl. She almost completely forgot about breakfast. In fact, she nearly missed dinner as well and for the same reason: she was too engrossed in that accursed book. Nearly missing two meals in a row? Celestia must've been getting forgetful in her old age. Perhaps a quick meal would help calm her nerves. "But aren't the chefs still asleep?"

Luna stood tall and confident. "Hardly a problem, dear sister. Lulu still knows how to create a supper truly worthy of envy."

"So, oats, then?"

"Indeed."

Celestia tried to stifle a chuckle, but failed. Only her sister. "That sounds lovely. But I’m afraid that will have to wait. I have to raise the sun soon, followed by immediate work in Day Court. I likely won’t have the time for another few hours.”

The supposed bad news did little to dampen Luna’s spirits. "Not a problem. The process of creating these oats is a long and arduous culinary process. After I take my early morning flight, I shall begin immediately. The wait will be well worth it." Luna turned and started towards the library's exit.

"And Luna?" Luna stopped just before the door. "Try not to burn the castle down this time."

The glare that Luna shot her was short, but fierce. But as usual, it soon turned into an amused smile. With that, Luna walked out of the library.

Once she left, Celestia breathed a sigh of relief. As much as she hated lying to anyone, especially her own sister, she felt it necessary in this case. Luna didn't deserve any of the terrible things that happened to her, that much was clear, and the last thing that Celestia wanted to do was remind her of the hardships they had to endure all those years ago.

Those four items were responsible for those hardships, and even after several millenniums' worth of thinking, she still couldn't decide whether they helped them escape their old life, or simply doomed them to this one.

Celestia placed the book back amongst the countless others filling the library's shelves. A solemn sigh passed through her lips. Try as she might, she couldn’t shake the sense of unease scratching at the back of her mind. With such powerful items in Equestria, the risk of them inevitably falling into the wrong possession was still present, slim as it was. Celestia couldn’t help but feel that such an occurrence was quickly approaching.

She could only hope that she was wrong.

----

Panting with exertion and with her wings strained to the breaking point, Rainbow Dash came to a less than graceful landing on top of a nearby hill. With all of the adrenaline rushing through her veins, she didn’t even register just how tired and worn her sleep-deprived body was. It was quick to tell her, though; the second her hooves made contact with the ground, her legs gave in beneath her own weight, and she fell to the ground.

In reality, she planned to do that anyway even if her body hadn’t made the choice for her. It wasn’t every day that Rainbow found grass to be just as comforting as a cloud, but that may have just been the fatigue talking. Either way, she was happy to just be laying down.

However, even though she was dead tired, she still had other things on her mind to think about. Things that were bound to bug her until properly addressed. Rolling onto her back, Rainbow stared up into the nighttime sky as she pondered on some rather pressing things.

I really need to tighten up that descent if I want that stunt to be killer. Way too shaky on that first time through. Don’t wanna get creamed by the ground. My sky writing’s gonna need some work too. Won’t mean much if the crowd can’t even read it.

It wasn’t that her first attempt at her latest stunt was necessarily bad; after all, she was Rainbow Dash. However, she was a bit of a perfectionist when it came to her flying, if her countless hours spent training was any indicator of that. She wasn’t going to make a name for herself if she skimped on the finer details. After all, in the Wonderbolts, precision was everything; one mistake could ruin an entire performance, and Rainbow wasn’t going to be the pony to do that.

I’m gonna have to work on it some more tomorrow. It’ll be way easier when this stupid storm blows over.

Before Rainbow knew it, she was going over every single detail of tonight’s stunt and several others that could use some improving. Even though her body just wanted to enjoy the sweet embrace of sleep, her mind was far too busy going over the tiny, intricate details. The shining night sky certainly made thinking all the more easier as well.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

With a jolt, Rainbow sat up and snapped her head around towards her unexpected guest. The voice, all too familiar, was enough to send a small chill down her spine, but when she actually saw Luna sitting right next to her, Rainbow could’ve swore she felt something plunge right into her stomach.

“P-Princess Luna!” she sputtered, scrambling up to her hooves to bow. Unfortunately, her tired body wasn’t up to the task, and she fell back to the ground.

Luna couldn’t help but chuckle at the pegasus’ anxiety. Far too often did she see ponies bend over backwards, both figuratively and literally, just so they could get the bow out of the way. “Now, now, Rainbow. Such formalities are unnecessary. I saw you flying and simply wanted to say hi.”

With that established, Rainbow took on a more relaxed posture as she lay back on the ground. It didn’t make her feel any more relaxed, though. “Oh. Well, uh, hi.”

“Hello.”

After digging her hooves around in the ground for a bit, Rainbow decided to speak up again. “So… what are you doing up so late?” she asked.

Luna chuckled at the question. “Well, this is my night, after all. Why would I not be up now?”

“Right, right, stupid question,” Rainbow said, scratching the back of her head. Small talk was another one of those things she wasn’t good at, especially when she was tired out of her mind.

Thankfully, Luna took the admittedly silly question in stride. “What about you?”

The sudden question made Rainbow perk her head up. “Huh?”

“What is keeping you awake at this hour?”

“I was… er… I…” And with that question, the floodgates inside Rainbow’s mind opened, releasing a flood of the very imagery that she did a very good job of forgetting about. Her reaction wasn’t nearly as reactive as it was before, though; she managed to keep herself from flying away, but it didn’t change the fact that her mood plummeted down into the floor. In all fairness, she did want to talk to somepony about it, if only so she could at least try to make sense of it all, and who better to talk to than one of the princesses?

“Rainbow Dash?” Luna quietly called, recapturing her attention. “Is something bothering you?”

Rainbow shifted uncomfortably in her spot on the ground. “You could say that, yeah.”

“What is it? Perhaps I can be of some assistance.”

Rainbow let out a small chuckle. Not one intended to lighten the mood, but rather one that was empty and humorless. “It’s funny. I was out here trying to figure it out, but I still have no idea how to explain it.”

Luna slowly nodded as Rainbow explained things. “I see. Can you at least try?”

“Yeah, I… I guess.” Rainbow took in a deep breath. That ‘dream’ of hers was still clear in her mind, so it wasn’t like describing it was going to be a problem.

However, there was another feeling along with all of that. It was strange, but familiar at the same time, like her mind was trying to cling to certain memories that threatened to fade away into obscurity. Either those memories were very close to fading away, or Rainbow was better at repressing memories than she thought, because she didn’t have the slightest clue what those memories were even supposed to be of.

Focusing her attention back on the princess, Rainbow gathered her thoughts before telling Luna everything even remotely relevant to the things she saw, from the armored guards, to the poor peasants, to the gloomy weather. However, she forgot, maybe even subconsciously, to mention the killing that she saw, or rather, took her time in getting to that part.

Luna never interrupted with questions or clarifications. She simply listened, her look hard with concentration, occasionally nodding. However, despite Rainbow’s clear struggle to get the words out, without hearing mention of any form of violence, let alone the killing that left the pegasus scarred in the first place, Luna had difficulty seeing the problem.

“The clarity of this dream of yours is certainly enough cause for concern. However, I am failing to see what has you so bothered. Is there something else that you are not telling me?”

Rainbow gulped down the anxiety building up in her throat. “Um, well, maybe a few things. But… I don’t even know if I’m ready to tell anypony about that stuff. It was all just so… messed up.”

Again, Luna nodded. “I understand, and will not force you to say anything that you do not wish to. However, if you are concerned about disturbing me in any way, fear not. I know that it can be easy to forget at times, but I have been in this life for quite some time, and have seen my fair share of ‘messed up’ things, as you put it.”

Rainbow shuffled around some more as she worked up the nerves to actually move on to that stuff.

Luna was quick to notice Rainbow’s discomfort. “Rainbow, tell me this at least. Were you ever going to tell your friends, or anypony of this?”

Rainbow tried to lift her head back up, only to let it drop again. “I don’t know.”

“Well, if you cannot tell me, nor your closest friends, then who else is there?” Rainbow’s silence prompted Luna to continue. “Consider this,” she said. “Would your friends think any less of you if you told them of this ‘dream’ of yours?”

It didn’t take long for Rainbow to think of an answer. “No, I guess not.”

“Then you should,” Luna said in a matter-of-fact tone. “You may be surprised by what will happen.”

Rainbow nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.”

“It is like I said. I will not force you to do anything that you do not wish. But just remember this: never underestimate the power of a strong friendship. It is one of the worst things that you could ever do.” Luna stood up and walked away from Rainbow. “I shall leave you to yourself. You will consider what I have said, yes?”

Rainbow, already lost again in her own thoughts, snapped her head up when she heard Luna calling to her. “Huh? Oh, yeah. Don’t worry, I will.”

After giving Rainbow one last smile, Luna turned away, and with a mighty flap of her wings, sped back towards the castle.

And just like that, Rainbow was left alone yet again with only her thoughts and the silence of the night keeping her company. For a long moment, she simply sat there in utter silence, her mind a battleground of conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Luna was right. Now that Rainbow had ample time to calm her nerves, the thought of telling her friends about that ‘nightmare’ of hers didn’t seem nearly as stressful. In fact, it was probably the most sensible thing to do. She certainly wasn’t going to make sense of it by herself, let alone sleep until she got it off of her chest.

Much against her tired body’s protests, Rainbow took to the sky once again and made a beeline for Ponyville. If she was going to tell her friends about it, there was one in particular who she had to tell right away.

----

Twilight’s library was in shambles. Crumpled bits of paper and broken quills littered the floor, with more being added to the mess every few minutes. Twilight sat at her desk, furiously scribbling into her notebook. Her eyes, red from both exhaustion and strain, constantly switched between her own notebook and the experimenter’s, making sure that she correctly translated everything down to a T. The storm had long since stopped, thankfully, leaving Twilight in blissful silence as she continued her work.

However, as time ticked away into the wee hours of the morning, she grew sleepier, and as a result, she also grew sloppier. Whether it was a missing sentence, a misworded phrase, or even a small typo, every single time Twilight made a mistake, she groaned in exasperation before tearing the offending page out of her notebook and tossing it to the floor.

Even if she was only doing it for herself, such mistakes would’ve been inexcusable; the fact that she was doing this for Rainbow as well only made Twilight even more determined. The more she understood what these experiments were, as well as the purpose of those candles, the better chance she had of understanding what exactly happened to Rainbow.

Unfortunately, her mind wasn’t in the best place. Fatigue was taking its inevitable toll. Keeping her eyes open became an increasingly challenging task. The archaic language before her slowly merged into a jumbled, illiterate mess. She was making far too many mistakes for her own good. As much as she wanted to push on, it would all be for naught if her hard work yielded incorrect information due to her exhaustion. She had to call it a night, or a morning, according to her clock.

Although a pang of disappointment shot through Twilight’s chest as she closed the notebook, she knew that it would all be worth it in the grand scheme of things. She’d wake up fresh, energized, and ready to tackle the journal yet again, which was, admittedly, rather enjoyable when she wasn’t making mistakes. Besides, Twilight more than likely had plenty of time to translate the rest of the journal before she ran into Rainbow again.

As Twilight placed all of her supplies back in their respective drawers, she heard a rapid knocking at her door. With it being as late as it was, Twilight was almost certain that her sleep-deprived mind was simply hearing things, but another knock quickly dismissed that notion.

That’s odd. Who could that be? she thought. “Er, coming!” Twilight trotted over to the door and pushed it open, revealing a sight she certainly didn’t expect. “Rainbow Dash?”

Rainbow, tired and out of breath, still tried to maintain her cool as she shot Twilight a friendly smile. “Uh, hey, Twi. Not interrupting anything, am I?”

“Not really, no. I was just about to go to bed. What about you? What are you doing up so late?

“I kinda have something I wanna get off my chest. Besides, I don’t think I’d be able to sleep until I did anyway.”

It took her a moment, but Twilight soon realized exactly what Rainbow was talking about. “Oh. You mean about what happened with… you know.”

Rainbow nodded. “Yeah. I’ve finally calmed down, so don’t worry. I just need to talk about this. That okay with you?”

“Oh, of course!” Twilight signaled for Rainbow to step inside. “Come on in. You must be freezing out there.”

“Heh, yeah. Thanks.” Rainbow stepped inside the library, taking a much needed rest on a nearby cushion. Twilight followed shortly after, sitting on the one next to her friend.

Once they were settled down, Rainbow scratched the back of her head as the awkwardness returned in full force. During the flight there, Rainbow had put together what she wanted to say, and even rehearsed a few times. Now that she was actually there, however, the words she went over dozens of times kept getting caught in her throat. As a result, the two simply sat in dead silence.

Twilight was tempted to press Rainbow, but pressing her didn’t seem like the best of ideas. Rainbow came to her using her own volition; the least Twilight could do was give her time to form her own thoughts, jumbled as they must’ve been.

Another minute or so ticked by before Rainbow finally found her words. “Okay, I don’t really know what exactly it did to me, but I think that candle of yours gave me some kinda weird dream or something.”

Twilight slowly nodded as her eyes drifted back over to the journal on her desk, a sense of déjá vu niggling at the back of her mind. “A dream.”

“Yeah,” Rainbow said, continuing her story. “But here’s the thing: it wasn’t just a dream. I mean, yeah, it was, but it still felt different.”

“Different?”

“Yeah. It felt… real. Like, really real. Like, ‘I was actually there’ real. Heck, it took me a couple seconds to realize that I woke up. That never happened to me before.”

Twilight listened as intently as her tired mind would allow, but still absorbed every word like a sponge, simultaneously running through the notes she spent over half of the day slaving over. Needless to say, from the candle, to the dream, to the frightening realness of said dream, she was able to draw a few connections.

“Rainbow, I think I may know what that was.”

Rainbow, just as she started to sink into her cushion, shot straight back up. “What? A dream? Yeah, I know that, Twi,” she said with a roll of her eyes.

“No, not just a dream,” Twilight clarified, unfazed by Rainbow. “It was a memory.”

Rainbow, very slowly, cocked her head off to the side as the seconds ticked by. Finally, she mustered up enough senses to utter one word. “What?”

“If I’m correct, when that candle merged with your mind, it activated certain memories that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. So, it wasn’t so much a dream as it was you ‘remembering’ those memories, hence the realism.”

Rainbow barely noticed as she shot up from her cushion. Whether or not it was Twilight saying it, there was no way in the wide, wide land of Equestria that that was any ‘memory’ or hers. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down, Twi. That can’t be right. I’ve never even been to whatever that place was. It was all grey, and crowded, and op… oppa… oppers…"

“Oppressive?”

“Lame!” Rainbow shouted. “Way too uncool for me.”

“Well, that’s just it. It wasn’t your memory.”

As Rainbow tried to wrap her head around that, she remembered who she was talking to. Her understanding Twilight was about as likely as her giving up her wings. “Okay, you lost me again.”

Twilight calmly sighed to herself. “As I said, the purpose of these strange candles is to access otherwise inaccessible memories. But these memories aren’t yours. They’re the memories of your ancestors.” If Twilight didn’t notice Rainbow’s discomfort before, she certainly noticed now.

Her face said it all; it wasn’t scrunched up in confusion, nor was an eyebrow raised in skepticism. Instead, she stared off into nothing, eyes wide and pupils nothing but pinpricks. Steady breathing became next to impossible. Her mouth moved, and save for the occasional croak, no words came out.

“Rainbow?”

Rainbow managed to snap out of her trance long enough to look up at Twilight. “Y-you said… ancestor? As in, the kind that you’re related to?” She almost didn’t want to believe it, but once Twilight nodded, it left little room for misinterpretation.

Twilight could tell that something was eating away at Rainbow with each passing second. She constantly shifted in her seat, her eyes looking back down to the floor. It was clear to see, and Twilight had an idea on what it was. “Rainbow, what was it a memory about?”

Rainbow felt her breath catch in her throat. It was the question she feared, but also one she anticipated. She flew all the way over there, fighting every pained and tired protest of her body, just to tell Twilight; if she turned back now, all of that would’ve been for nothing.

Just get it over with, I guess. Rainbow took a deep breath. It wouldn’t be easy, but that wasn’t an excuse. “Uh, listen. About that memory thing I saw.” She drew out every single word, trying in vain to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible. “I, er, my ancestor… I saw her killing ponies.” Rainbow clamped her eyes shut, expecting a shocked gasp or disgusted scoff, any type of reaction. However, it never came. There was only more silence.

Rainbow slowly looked up at Twilight. There was no shock, disgust, or even surprise on the unicorn’s face. Instead, there was sincere concern in her eyes, the kind that only a friend could truly express. Strangely enough, seeing that made Rainbow feel worse than shock or disgust could ever hope to achieve. “Oh, Rainbow. That’s terrible.”

Rainbow forced out a quiet chuckle. “Yeah, it was… it was pretty rough.” She kept shifting in her seat, chuckling, and clearing her throat; she was doing anything to try and hide the fact that she was just as scared as before. She wasn’t doing a very good job, not with Twilight looking over every, subtle movement. She was an open book to the unicorn, and like with any other book, Twilight read her in seconds.

“Rainbow, I know what you’re thinking,” she said, placing a comforting hoof on Rainbow’s shoulder. “I know that it must’ve looked real. I know that it must’ve felt real. But remember, it wasn’t you. You weren’t the one doing those things.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just… It’s really hard to get over it, ya know?”

Twilight nodded in understanding. “It’s only been an hour since it happened. I wouldn’t have gotten over it by now, either.”

Rainbow took a deep breath before looking up at Twilight for the first time in the past five minutes. “I mean, who would’ve figured that one of my ancestors would’ve been like that? Not the captain of the Wonderbolts, or even a member of the Wonderbolts. No, I get stuck with Ms. Stabs-a-Lot.”

Despite her friend’s agitation, Twilight couldn’t help but shrug. “It’s not as unlikely as you think. Equestria did have its times of conflict from time to time. We all probably have ancestors like that, if it makes you feel any better.”

The corners of Rainbow’s mouth curved up into a small grin. For the first time since she arrived, Rainbow felt calm and comfortable knowing that Twilight’s reaction was the exact opposite of what she expected. “Heh. Yeah, I feel better. Way better. I really, really needed to talk about this. Thanks, Twi.”

Twilight wrapped a foreleg around Rainbow’s shoulder and pulled her in for a hug, one that the pegasus gladly returned. “It’s what friends are for, right?” The two broke away as they both let out a long yawn. “Well, looks like we could both use some sleep after tonight.”

Rainbow stood back up, stretching out her legs and wings. “Yeah, some sleep sounds pretty good right about now.” She started towards the front door, only to stop right at the threshold. “Oh, yeah. One more thing,” she said, turning back towards Twilight. “Should I be worried about anything?”

Twilight cocked her head to the side. “Hmm? What do you mean?”

“About that weird candle thing. I don’t have to worry about side effects or something, do I?”

“Oh, uh…” Twilight’s eyes drifted back over to the journal on her desk, lying open under the dim candlelight. “I did find a journal that goes over experiments with it, but I have to translate it first. So far, I haven’t gotten far enough to read anything on side effects, so I don’t know. Sorry.”

Rainbow slumped down ever so slightly, but didn’t allow her spirits to plummet back down to where they were before. “Oh.”

“But I know I’ll have an answer tomorrow!” Twilight quickly added. “So, maybe stop by in the afternoon if you want to know?”

Rainbow shot Twilight another grin. “Sounds like a plan.” She turned back towards the door and pushed it open. “Alright, Twi. See ya tomorrow!” With a single flap of her wings, Rainbow shot off into the night sky, leaving Twilight in the silence of night yet again.

As Twilight approached the stairs, ready to go to bed herself, she couldn’t help but take another glance at that curious journal. The things she read in there were incredibly peculiar. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, she couldn’t deny the possibility that whatever happened tonight was only the beginning of whatever that candle could do. However, she’d have time to think more on that tomorrow with renewed vigor.

With that in mind, Twilight blew out the candle and trotted up the stairs for some much needed sleep.

----

So, she finally knows. Hmm. Now things are bound to get very interesting.

Watching as the rainbow-maned pegasus flew away from the library, the mare stepped back into her humble abode.

----

Focus. That was the only thing that Rainbow Dash needed. It was the only thing that was necessary. Maybe that, and a little bit of luck, but when would she ever need luck when she had skill? Put simply, she never did. However, a bit of luck wouldn’t hurt on this particular day. It was, after all, the most important day of her flying career.

She stood before a pair of large, imposing, cloud doors. These doors led to a stadium large enough to hold thousands of ponies. However, there weren’t thousands of ponies awaiting her on the other side, but rather, a small group of ponies. Not just any group, of course not, but a group that Rainbow looked up to with an admiration that most would call obsessive. She preferred ‘highly devoted’. After all, the Wonderbolts deserved nothing less.

Rainbow approached the doors and placed a hoof on its cloudy surface. Even though though it was just cloud, her entire body shivered as if she touched freezing cold metal. Her entire life had been leading up to this moment. Every day of her training—every hour, every minute, every second—was preparing her for this one moment. But despite spending years training, a single question still itched at the back of her head.

Am I ready for this?

With Rainbow’s undying love for flying, anypony with a sane mind would say that she was, but in all honesty, Rainbow wasn’t too sure of herself. Then again, she wouldn’t be standing where she was if she wasn’t.

With shaky legs and sweat trickling down her face, Rainbow took one final breath before pushing the doors open. This was it. It was now or never. All or nothing. If Rainbow nailed this, then it was official. She’d be on the team. Oh, she could hear the crowd chanting her name already.

“Rainbow! Rainbow! Rainbow!”

----

"Rainbow! Rainbow Dash, wake up!" Cloud Kicker flew up to the cyan pegasus, who was sound asleep on a small cloud. When she didn't show any signs of waking up, the tan pegasus gave the cloud a sharp buck as an impromptu wake-up call. It proved effective, as Rainbow Dash not only woke up, but leapt off the cloud with a yelp, mane, tail, and legs stiff due to a small, shock-induced paralysis.

When she finally calmed down and saw who it was, she just rubbed her tired eyes, letting out an annoyed groan. "What do you want, Cloud Kicker?"

The tan pegasus looked as though she had just been insulted by the question. "What do I want? You were supposed to clear the rainclouds over Ponyville fifteen minutes ago! Now it’s almost noon, and there’s still a huge cloud right above City Hall!"

Rainbow simply rolled her eyes. She rarely shared her co-worker's sense of urgency, and actually found it more annoying than anything else. On this day in particular, she really didn't feel like being bothered, let alone berated. "Oh, no," she said in a mocking tone, feigning distress. "The mayor will get some extra shade. What'll we do?"

Cloud Kicker narrowed her eyes as her frustration slowly reached its peak. "Rainbow Dash…"

Rainbow cut her off by raising a hoof. "Relax, C.K. I'll take care of it." Rainbow Dash landed back on her cloud and flared her wings as she stroke a pose. "It's me, remember?"

Rainbow's confidence did little to calm her frustrated colleague. "Yes, it's you. It's always you." Finally, she just let out an exasperated sigh. "Just… get it done." With that, she flew away, leaving Rainbow by herself.

Once Cloud Kicker was just a speck in the distance, Rainbow slouched back down, letting her wings droop onto the cloud. She was utterly exhausted, and had last night’s events to thank. Even after her comforting talk with Twilight, she just couldn't stop thinking about what she saw. Even with her mind foggy with fatigue, everything from that ‘memory’ kept playing out in her head, clear as day.

She had seen her ancestor kill three ponies without hesitation. That fact alone was enough to mentally scar her, but the worst part, by far, was that it felt as though Rainbow was the one there, killing them herself. She knew that wasn’t the case, but it didn’t change the fact that it all just felt way too real. But she could never be related to somepony like that, no matter how long ago it was. It just couldn’t be possible. Using what strength she had left, Rainbow flew towards City Hall, her mind still dwelling on the situation.

As far as Rainbow Dash could remember, nearly her entire family, her mother, father, grandparents, aunts, and uncles were athletes at some point. Her parents were even the star members of their flight team, while her grandfather was a former Wonderbolt. Her family practically breathed athleticism, and Rainbow Dash was no exception.

She had a lot riding on her shoulders, mainly being the first female in her family to become a Wonderbolt. Her mother probably would've taken that title, but couldn't due to an unfortunate hip injury, so it all came down to Rainbow. But even if there was already a long line of female Wonderbolts in her family, she still would've wanted to become one, because that was her dream, one that she worked towards ever since she was a filly.

Even before she was in flight school, she spent every morning and every night training to become the best flyer she could be. Her parents made sure of that. Every day, they'd work her to the breaking point. Doing hundreds of wing push-ups, flying for miles with weights attached to her hooves, and spending hours flying through obstacle courses were all daily occurrences in her foalhood. Some days were so rough that she wondered if she'd have been better off running away and escaping it all.

However, whenever she wanted to give up, her parents were there to remind her that they had to go through the same thing when they were her age, and it was for the same reason: to become the best flyer they could be.

Even though it was tempting, Rainbow knew that she couldn't just give up; she had to push on and endure the pain, even if the pain became unbearable. She went through it all for one simple reason: flying was her passion, and the same could be said for the rest of her family. Whoever this other pony was only served to complicate things. It’d be easier to just push it all out of her mind, but things were always easier said than done.

Rainbow’s train of thought was interrupted when she realized that she'd been hovering in the same place for several minutes. Throwing her hooves in the air, she moaned in frustration. "What's up with all the self-therapy? What am I getting so worked up about?”

The entire situation was already becoming more frustrating than confusing, and Rainbow was fed up from day one. She flew, full speed, to City Hall, hoping that the work would take her mind off of everything for at least a few minutes.

When she finally reached the building, she couldn't help but bring a hoof to her face when she saw what she had to deal with. In the middle of the massive sea of deep blue sky was a tiny nimbostratus that didn't seem to be any more than fifty meters in diameter, a size that even the newest of weather ponies could deal with. She knew that Cloud Kicker had a habit of exaggerating, but that was ridiculous, even for her.

One buck later, and the cloud was no more. With her work day as clear as the sky, Rainbow got to thinking on what to do with the rest of her free time. She considered dropping by Twilight’s place to see how she was doing on the journal, but it was still relatively early in the day, just past noon. She’d wait a few more hours, then pay her visit. Now she just needed to figure out what she was going to do for the next few hours.

There really was only one thing that she had in mind, something that became even harder to ignore when she laid eyes on a nearby tree. The subsequent yawn that quickly followed sealed the deal. “Yeah, a nap sounds pretty good right about now.”

----

Twilight did it. She finally did it. Yes, it took her a day and a half. Yes, it cost her fifty-two of her favorite three hundred seventy-four quills. Yes, it interfered with her original plans for the day more than she preferred, but in the end, it was worth it.

One page. One last page was all that stood between her and a completely translated journal. Granted, translation by that point wasn’t anywhere near as crucial as it was before; she had already received the fruits of her labor. With clear and concise descriptions of the experiments, the possible side effects, and most importantly, the treatment of said side effects, Twilight had more than enough information to hopefully calm Rainbow’s nerves.

On the other end, however, Twilight was never one to simply leave a challenge unfinished. After all, it was only one page. Twilight, with bated breath, flipped to the last page of the journal.

There were no words. Literally. There wasn’t the slightest hint of a single word or letter on the yellow-tinged page. However, that didn’t mean that it was completely barren. There were no words, but there was a single symbol stamped on the lower-right corner. Despite being faded, it didn’t take long before Twilight realized what it was. When she did, her eyes shot wide open. The symbol, a full moon eclipsing the radiant sun, was one that she saw before.

The Eclipse, a remarkably prestigious seal given to proposals that Celestia herself felt would greatly benefit Equestria for the millennia to come. There were only a scant few things in the past that were worthy of the seal, things that were still very much present in Equestria, such as the peace treaty between ponies and griffons and the reconstruction of Equestrian law that made Equestria the place it came to be.

Twilight couldn’t even begin to describe the overwhelming mixture of elation and panic that she felt as she looked over the journal in an entirely new light. This wasn’t just the journal of some random mad scientist hoping to become the newest pioneer. No, this was a journal that, long ago, Celestia held in her own magic, read over with her own eyes, and stamped with her own seal of approval. It wasn’t just a journal; it was something far more valuable.

And Twilight had treated it so poorly!

How many times did she leave it out in the open, completely defenseless? How close had she kept it to lit candles? One errant spark, a sudden cave-in, or flash flood, and she would’ve lost this amazing breakthrough in history.

She didn’t even think twice about covering the journal with a protective ward, nor did she think twice about covering that ward with a protective ward, followed by a third for good measure. With the precious artifact triple-protected, Twilight released a relieved breath that she didn’t even know she was holding.

Even though she averted a potential crisis, she still couldn’t begin to imagine how a simple candle enchantment, impressive as it was, could receive such a seal. Yes, it could’ve proven useful in interrogations, but that was hardly enough to consider it worthy of the Eclipse. There must’ve been something else to it. What that something was, Twilight was yet to find out. Fortunately, she had a decent idea on where to start.

At that moment, Spike came walking down the stairs, fresh from his nap. “You’re still working on that book?” he asked through a yawn, rubbing his tired eyes.

Twilight not only ignored the annoyed tone in his voice, but ignored the question entirely, bringing a quill and parchment right up to the tired dragon’s face. “Spike, I need you to take a letter,” she said.

For a moment, Spike only stared at the writing materials floating in front of him before switching his focus to Twilight. “Uh… why?”

“I’ll explain later. Just do it, please.” She punctuated herself by slightly pushing the materials closer to her assistant.

Spike could only roll his eyes before taking the quill and parchment in his grip. After making sure the quill had ink, he readied himself to write. “Okay. Go ahead.”

Twilight cleared her throat, half of the letter already prepared in her head. “Dear Princess—” She didn’t get very far, however, before she heard somepony rapping against her front door. Letting out something of an annoyed grunt, she turned back towards Spike. “Give me a moment,” she said, begrudged.

Spike, never being one to turn down an order that kept him from work, simply shrugged and stood by as Twilight trotted towards the front door.

Though she didn’t like it, Twilight couldn’t deny that she felt a bit peeved, if the scowl on her face was any indication. Not that she didn’t like having visitors, but of all the times for somepony to stop by, it had to be right before she was about to relay an important discovery—or rediscovery, depending on the perspective—to Princess Celestia. Still, despite the inconvenience, she could at least hope that wouldn’t come across as too snappy.

Unfortunately, her sudden visitor didn’t make that an easy feat, constantly banging on the wooden door as if the world was ending outside. Needless to say, the never-ending noise in Twilight’s eardrums did nothing to help the unicorn calm down.

“I’m coming!” Twilight shouted. So much for not being snappy. Still, it at least made the knocking stop. The pony on the either side must’ve finally gotten enough senses to stop knocking and wait patiently, or they ran away from the beast that was an agitated, OCD-stricken librarian.

When Twilight opened the door, she found it to be the former: Rainbow Dash stood on the other side, casually leaning against the doorframe.

“Oh, hello, Rainbow,” Twilight greeted.

Rainbow only returned the greeting with a raised eyebrow. Clearly, she had heard Twilight’s little outburst. “Uh, hey, Twi,” she cautiously said. She tried peering into the library past Twilight, making note of the mess of papers and quills inside. “Is something bugging you?”

Twilight opened her mouth to say something, but instead opted to simply scratch the back of her head. Lying never was a strong suit of hers. “Sorry about that,” she said, following it with an awkward chuckle. “Just had a pretty intense morning. I’m still a little excited, is all.”

“A little?” Rainbow could only roll her eyes at that. “Yeah, I noticed.” She managed to get a glare out of Twilight, but the unicorn decided to let it pass.

“So, how have you been?” Twilight asked.

Rainbow responded with a little yawn. “Tired, pretty much. A lot better than last night, though, I can tell you that.”

Twilight nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I can imagine.”

“But yeah,” Rainbow continued, “I’m guessing you already know why I dropped by.”

Twilight’s mouth curled up into a small grin. “I could probably make an educated guess.” She rubbed her chin in faux contemplation. “Hmm. You’re here for the latest issue of Daring Do?”

Rainbow couldn’t have stood straight up any faster if she tried. “Wait, that’s out already?” she breathlessly asked, a huge, toothy smile on her face.

Twilight placed a hoof in front of her mouth in a vain attempt to stifle a chuckle. “I’m just pulling your leg, Rainbow.” Now it was the pegasus’ turn to give her friend a seething glare, something that only made Twilight chuckle even more. “Come on in. I just finished translating that journal.”

Rainbow’s glare didn’t disappear entirely as the two stepped inside Twilight’s house. “Now I want the latest issue,” she muttered. She stopped right before the minefield before her. The floor before her was littered with various quills and discarded sheets of parchment. Even though they didn’t look very useful anymore, she knew all too well how Twilight could get when her things were damaged, and would rather not take the risk.

Twilight, trotting around her discarded materials, glanced back and saw Rainbow observing the mess. “Like I said, it was an intense morning. Just watch your step.”

Rainbow looked back up at her, her brow furrowed ever so slightly. “Uh, hello?” She stood tall and proud, flaring her wings. “Wings, remember?” With a single flap, Rainbow took to the air, gliding clear over the mess.

“Or that. That works, too,” Twilight said.

As Rainbow hovered above the mess, her eyes scanned over the rest of the library before resting on Spike. Even though she wasn’t even focusing on anything in particular, she couldn’t help but notice the quill and parchment in his hands. Somehow, she even managed to notice the unfinished header to a letter. Thinking back to Twilight’s little outburst, she just put two and two together.

“Hey, were you writing a letter to the Princess or something when I showed up?” Rainbow asked.

Twilight turned back towards her just as she picked up her own journal. “Hmm? Oh, yes, I was. How’d you know?”

Rainbow motioned towards Spike. “I just saw Spike with that writing stuff and just… guessed, I guess.”

Twilight’s eyes widened slightly, legitimately surprised. “Really? And since when did you notice little things like that?”

Rainbow could only shrug. “I dunno. I just noticed.”

Despite the answer, Twilight still gave Rainbow ‘that’ look. That ‘Twilight’ look that Rainbow seldom liked to see. A slightly furrowed brow, a frown of concentration, and a hoof that stroked her chin in contemplation was a combination that may as well have been a giant red flag. Whatever was on her mind, she was going to bring it up again very soon.

“Well,” Twilight began, “I can only imagine that you want to know what I found out.” When Rainbow nodded, Twilight flipped open the journal with a flash of lavender. She rapidly flipped through numerous pages before coming to a stop on one in particular. The top of the page, written in Twilight’s lovely cursive, was ‘Side Effects and Treatments’. “From the looks of it, you won’t have anything to worry about.”

Rainbow touched down next to Twilight’s desk, looking down at the journal herself. “Really?”

Twilight nodded. “Look here.” She pointed at a specific paragraph on the page. “According to this, the major side effects, such as hallucinations, don’t even begin to kick in until after prolonged or frequent use. You’ve only used it once, and for a short amount of time at that, so the least you should get is a bit of a headache.”

A relieved sigh left Rainbow’s muzzle. In fact, if she grew any more relaxed, she could’ve melted through the floor. “Whew, that’s a relief. For a second there, I actually thought—” But just as quickly as it came, her relief was replaced with a sharp pang of worry. “Wait, the least I should get is a headache? What’s the most, then?”

Twilight tapped a hoof on her chin as she put together what she wanted to say. “Well, it wasn’t covered in much detail, but from what I was able to gather, certain things have a tendency to ‘carry over’ from the memories into the real world.”

And just like that, all of Rainbow’s initial relief disappeared under a wave of anxiety, and Twilight’s vagueness wasn’t helping much in that matter. “Hold on, hold on. What do you mean, ‘carry over’?”

“Um, how do I explain this?” Twilight mumbled, tapping her forehead. Her mouth curled into a small frown as she tried to figure out how to word it. “You see, with the way that these candles function, your mind essentially becomes one with the mind of your ancestor. For as long as the spell lasts, you two are basically the same pony, for lack of better terms. Are you still with me?”

It wasn’t every day when Rainbow was interested in one of Twilight’s lectures, and even less so when she was enthralled by one. All she did—all she could do—was slowly nod, prompting Twilight to continue.

“Well, because of that ‘melding of the minds’, so to speak, even when the subject comes out of the spell, certain characteristics from the ancestor still linger in their subconscious as though they’ve always been there. These characteristics can range from likes and dislikes, to overall personality, and even to certain skills.”

That last one made Rainbow’s ears involuntarily twitch out of interest. “Certain skills?” she repeated.

Twilight nodded. “Say, for example, your ancestor was a carpenter. You may come out of the spell knowing how to properly make a table or something.”

As interested as Rainbow was, she still couldn’t keep herself from rolling her eyes. It was almost instinctual, that reaction. “Gee, Twi. Use a more boring example, why don’t ya?”

She hardly seemed bothered by the glare she received from Twilight. But instead of scolding the pegasus, Twilight calmed down with a quick sigh. “Do you still get my point?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Rainbow answered, shrugging. “But I don’t feel all that different.”

“In all fairness, we don’t know for sure. Aside from fighting and killing, we don’t really know anything about your ancestor as far as personality goes. We could probably draw a few logical conclusions based on her skill, but that won’t yield much without another session and—”

“Well, if you think I’m going back in there, you’re just as crazy as she was,” Rainbow chided.

Twilight snapped out of her little bookworm stupor and tried to play it off with a small chuckle. “Sorry, sorry! I was just thinking out loud.”

“Again,” Rainbow muttered with another roll of the eyes.

“But did I answer your questions?” Twilight asked.

“I think. Maybe. I guess.”

“Maybe Celestia can give us some deeper details,” Twilight suggested. “I was writing a letter to her, after all.”

Rainbow nonchalantly waved a hoof. “Yeah, yeah. I guess that’s not such a bad idea.”

Looking back at her young assistant, Twilight cleared her throat. “Spike,” she called.

Spike was already positioned to write. “Go ahead.”

----

If there was ever a visual representation of serenity, it would be the scene playing out before Celestia’s eyes. She and her sister sat on Celestia’s balcony, overlooking the glorious, green expanse below.

The two alicorns relaxed in blissful silence, occasionally munching on their breakfast. It wasn’t some overblown, fancy feast prepared by a small village’s worth of chef’s. It wasn’t even something more common such as hash browns and a simple salad. No, it was simply a bowl of oats cooked by Luna, seasoned by Luna, and served by Luna. And it was delicious.

It only went to serve a point that Celestia always believed: a large, festive buffet fit for royalty always paled in comparison to the simplicity of enjoying a quiet breakfast with a loved one. She could hardly even recall the last time she enjoyed a quiet meal with Luna; it had to have been upwards to a few years ago, in a situation very similar to this one. Where did the time go?

“Simply divine, is it not?” Luna asked, finally breaking the silence.

Celestia swallowed another mouthful of oats, a warm, content smile on her face. “Yes, Equestria does look breath-taking at this time of day.” Though Celestia always enjoyed hearing her sister laugh, she couldn’t help but curl her mouth into a confused frown as she heard a teasing giggle from Luna.

“No, dear sister. I was referring to my oats,” Luna clarified.

It was Celestia’s turn to giggle. Somehow, she wasn’t surprised by her sister’s little remark. “Yes, Luna. This breakfast is amazing as well. The seasoning, I especially like. There’s something… nostalgic about it.”

“I am glad that you feel that way. I based the recipe off of one from our foalhood.”

Celestia took in another spoonful of oats, letting the food rest on her tongue for a moment, noting each individual flavor. Finally, she swallowed it down. “Hmm. Now that you mention it, I do recognize some of the ingredients; even a bit of spice. Is that… Is that dragon root?”

Luna nodded. “Indeed it is. Plucked fresh from the draconic valleys themselves.”

Celestia raised a playful eyebrow. “I suppose that explains the scorch marks a few weeks back?” Luna’s sheepish chuckle and grin was more than enough of an answer. “Regardless, it is an exquisite dish for something as simple as oats.”

“See? Your dear sister still knows how to cook.”

“And without burning the kitchen down,” Celestia added, a teasing smirk on her face. “Very impressive.”

Luna shot up to her hooves, her azure cheeks flushing a faint crimson. “That only happened once!”

“For a very silly reason.”

“It was not my fault! The logic was infallible,” Luna argued. “If it takes thirty minutes to bake a cake at three-hundred fifty degrees, then it should only take five minutes to cook it at twenty-one hundred degrees!”

Celestia could do little more than sigh at her sister’s ‘infallible’ logic. “And this is why mother never let us in the kitchen,” she muttered.

Before Luna could offer any further examples of her cooking prowess, a sheet of parchment appeared before Celestia in a flash of green fire. The princess raised an interested eyebrow as she caught the scroll in her magic.

Luna’s mouth curled into a small smirk as Celestia unfurled the letter. “Interesting. I wonder what ‘Tia’s young student has to say this time.”

“I’m rather interested myself. It is rather early, even for Twilight,” Celestia said, reading through the letter. “Perhaps it’s another friendship report.”

“Or,” Luna spoke up, “if it is anything like before, she is likely panicking over some errant apostrophe.” She placed a hoof over her mouth, stifling a small chuckle.

Celestia, however, had nothing to say in return; she just sat there, reading over the letter, her face completely blank.

“Well?” Luna asked. “Am I, as they say, on the money?”

Celestia didn’t respond. She scarcely even moved. Her eyes were the only things that moved as they read over the letter again and again.

As she stared at her sister, Luna’s soft smile gave way to a concerned frown. Something was clearly wrong; Celestia’s face said it all. Luna could only hazard a guess that it had something to do with that letter. "Is something bothering you?” she asked.

Again, no response. Celestia’s brow furrowed ever so slightly as she scanned over the letter yet again.

Luna, growing more worried by the second, stood up. “Sister, what is it?” Finally, Celestia rolled the letter back up before getting up onto her hooves. Judging from her face, though, Luna could tell that something was still wrong.

Without so much as a goodbye, Celestia turned and walked back into her bedroom. “Celestia!” Luna called. The white alicorn didn’t slow for an instance as she walked up to her bookshelf.

“Luna, I appreciate the breakfast,” she said, “but I must leave. Now.” She took down a single white book and placed it underneath the folds of her wings.

Luna came inside as well, looking more confused than ever. “But I do not understand. What is happening?”

Celestia turned back towards her sister. “I promise that I will explain later, but time is of the essence.” Before Luna could say anything else, Celestia disappeared in a magnificent flash of blinding light. When it cleared, Luna was alone once again.

----

Though Spike had not been alive for a particularly long amount of time, he had seen enough to know when it was best to simply sit back and let nature run its course. That way of thinking became invaluable during his time under Twilight’s roof.

After living with her for such a long time, certain patterns and signs became apparent. The occasional eye twitch, a few errant strands of mane, and that crazy look in the eye were all signs that Twilight had crossed the fine line between manageable and completely off her rocker. Funnily enough, it almost always happened whenever Celestia was involved, specifically letters to Celestia.

Heavens forbid that the princess took more than a minute to respond to one of Twilight’s letters, or else the unicorn would think that the world was being torn asunder. Granted, Twilight did make a notable effort to distract herself as she waited, absent-mindedly looking over her various books, or arranging and rearranging her quills. She still managed to keep her cool as the first minute ticked by. By the tenth minute, however, Twilight was practically bathing in nervous sweat.

“Oh, I hope everything goes well,” she muttered, pacing back and forth across the library. “What if Celestia hid the candles on purpose? What’ll she do now that I’ve found them? What if she banishes me? Oh, I should’ve thought this through more.”

As Twilight systematically destroyed any composure that she had, Rainbow and Spike just stood on the sidelines, faces flat and unamused. “And now she’s talking to herself,” Rainbow said.

Spike simply nodded his head. “Mhmm.”

“What if she didn’t even get it?” Twilight asked. “Spike! You didn’t send the letter to the wrong princess, did you?”

Spike slowly shut his eyes and pinched his nose. It was a question that he heard more times than he’d like to admit. “No. No, I didn’t. Just relax. She’ll write back eventually. And stop pacing! You’re making a rut in the floor.”

“What?” Twilight looked at her floor, and sure enough, her frantic pacing had eaten up at least a few centimeters of the hardwood. Spike was right. She wasn’t going to do anypony any favors if she couldn’t even keep her head on straight. She released all of her stress, all of her anxiety, in a single, calming sigh. She even chuckled a bit, awkward as it was. “I guess I am overreacting a bit, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, that’s not an understatement,” Rainbow muttered, rolling her eyes.

If Twilight had heard her, she didn’t show it. She was too busy scanning the wasteland of broken quills and crumpled parchment that used to be her library floor. “Ugh, look at this mess. Spike, can you get me the broom?”

“Gotcha.” Without another word, Spike walked off to the kitchen. “At least I’m not the one cleaning it up.”

That left only Rainbow as she watched Twilight tidy the place up in a much calmer manner than before, placing any and all discarded trash in a neat, little pile.

Rainbow let out a small cough just to break the quiet monotony. “So… you calm now?” she asked.

Twilight picked up her journal before trotting back to her desk. “Yes.”

“Not gonna freak out or anything?”

Twilight couldn’t keep from rolling her eyes as she placed her journal within the safety of her desk’s drawers. “No.”

Rainbow slowly glided towards the desk herself. She didn’t really need to say that she didn’t believe the unicorn; the suspecting look she gave Twilight did a fine job at that. “You sure?”

Whether or not Twilight meant to slam the drawer shut as hard as she did, she didn’t really know herself. What she did know was that Rainbow’s stream of questions was doing nothing to help her anxiety. “Yes, Rainbow, I’m sure.” She took a quick, deep breath to compose herself before putting on a friendly smile. “Don’t worry. I’m calm, and it’s going to stay that way once Celestia writes back.”

A less-than-pleasant belch rang from the kitchen. That meant one of two things. Either Spike got into the sparkling cider again, or—

“Celestia wrote back!” Spike called, coming out of the kitchen, scroll in hand. He didn’t take two steps into the room before a lavender aura wrapped around the scroll. Before Spike knew it, the scroll went flying towards Twilight… with him still holding on to it.

For the longest time, he dangled in front of Twilight, the annoyance in his face doing more justice than any number of words could. Rainbow’s failed attempts to stifle her chuckles didn’t help matters, either. As for Twilight, all do could do was awkwardly chuckle out a quick, “Sorry,” before Spike dropped back to the ground.

As he stomped back off to the kitchen for that broom, Twilight quickly unfurled the letter and tore her eyes across the parchment.

My Most Faithful Student,
You have my utmost appreciation for bringing this to my attention. Having such things remain accessible to the public could’ve proven disastrous for Equestria. However, I can’t help but feel that this all goes far deeper than any of us would initially think, and I doubt that mere letter exchanges will allow us to fully uncover this. Therefore, I shall be visiting you momentarily. I apologize for doing this at such short notice, but this is not something that I would like to take risks with. I will be seeing you shortly.

Your Mentor,
Celestia

Rainbow Dash stood idly by as Twilight read through the letter, distracting herself with a few floating specks of dust. She probably could’ve read something, but the dust was doing a perfectly fine job at the moment. It was enough to get her past the first few seconds, but then thirty seconds passed. Then a minute. Then five more. Needless to say, dust wasn’t going to keep Rainbow distracted for six minutes.

As the seconds continued to tick by, Twilight didn’t make the slightest movement, not even the slightest sound. Rainbow, always the patient pony, walked over to her and prodded Twilight’s side. “Hey, Twi. You awake?” No response. In all fairness, Rainbow wasn’t even surprised. She waved a hoof in front of the unicorn’s face. “Hey! Wakey-wakey!” Still nothing.

“Just give her a minute,” Spike said, leaning against the wall, broom and dustpan next to him.

Rainbow snapped her attention towards the casual dragon. “She had, like, six!” she snapped.

Spike could only shrug. “Eh, what can ya do?”

And with an aggravated sigh from Rainbow, their little back-and-forth came to an end. But just as she started back towards the desk, she heard teeny tiny squeak leave Twilight’s muzzle. If Rainbow hadn’t practiced picking up Fluttershy’s inaudible whispers, she might’ve missed it. Regardless, she snapped right back to Twilight’s side.

“What was that?” Rainbow asked, straining her ears to pick up any more mumbles.

“Momentarily,” Twilight croaked.

Rainbow wasn’t entirely sure if she had missed something else or if that was all that Twilight said. “You’re losing me, Twi. Momentarily… what?” she asked, trying to coax something out.

“Celestia’s going to be here momentarily.” The terrified tone in Twilight’s voice betrayed the very forced smile on her face, as well as the small chuckle that quickly followed. “Sh-she’s going to be here… any minute.” Twilight’s right eye twitched ever so slightly.

Spike could do little more than pinch his nose. Nothing good ever came from an eye twitch, especially from Twilight. “She’s getting that look again.”

“So much for staying calm,” Rainbow said.

For the first time in seven minutes, Twilight looked up from the letter. “Any minute,” she said again. Her eyes scanned over the mess in her library, agonizing over every, little detail. Each and every puddle of ink, discarded sheet of parchment, and errant pile of dust was just another arrow that pierced fear right into her heart.

“And this place is still a mess.” Another twitch. In all honesty, Rainbow had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t the laughter that left Twilight’s mouth. Laughter that was nothing short of maniacal. “We’ll just have to fix that.”

Rainbow took a single step back from the giggling unicorn. “Uh, Twi? You’re starting to creep me out.” She didn’t get much more out of Twilight aside from the continuing stream of laughter that slowly turned into more of a cackle. “Uh, Spike? Do you know what’s happening?”

“Yep. That’s why I wear this.” When Rainbow looked back at the young dragon, he was fully protected by a metal bucket on his head and two large pillows tied to his chest and back. It didn’t help ease Rainbow’s nerves. “You might wanna hide behind something,” he suggested.

It was a suggestion that Rainbow didn’t have time to take.

----

Hmm. Perhaps I should’ve announced that I was coming here first. Though Celestia was a paragon of planning ahead, in her haste to reach Twilight’s house as quickly as possible, she forgot how ponies tended to react to her visits. It was something that she was quickly reminded of when the usually bustling town of Ponyville went dead still at the very sight of her carriage as it landed in town square. And that was saying nothing of the reaction as she stepped out.

The moment that a square inch of her right foreleg left the carriage, every pony in the area, regardless of what they were doing, bowed down. A few waiters at nearby restaurants even spilled trays of food as they bowed. It was either dedicated devotion or blind obedience. Regardless, it was a sight that wasn’t going to end unless she did something about it.

“Rise, my subjects!” All of the surrounding ponies did so in absolute sync. “I understand that my presence here is unexpected, but know that my being here bears no bad news. There are no incidents involving Discord, changelings, or parasprites.” Despite that announcement, her subjects kept their eyes glued on her. In fact, most were leaning their heads in, as if they were expecting something else. Whether or not it was necessarily a good thing, Celestia knew exactly what they were expecting. With a begrudging sigh, she just came out with it. “Or cake.”

A collective sigh of relief washed through the entire crowd before they went about their usual business. Celestia could only roll her eyes. Accursed tabloids.

She turned back towards her carriage. “You may return to Canterlot. I believe I can handle things from here.” Her guards didn’t hesitate for a moment before taking to the sky again. That only left the relatively simple task of tracking down Twilight, a task that was made even simpler by the large amounts of noise coming from the library.

Celestia chuckled to herself as she approached the library. She must be doing some last-minute cleaning again.

She knocked on the front door once the noise seemed to have died down.

“She’s here!” a muffled voice cried, undeniably Twilight’s.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Watch where you throw that!”

One more loud crash emanated from the library before the sound of hoofbeats grew closer to the door. “Coming!” Twilight cried.

The front door swung open, showing a rather exhausted Twilight and a genuinely terrified Rainbow Dash. “Hello, Princess Celestia,” Twilight greeted.

Celestia smiled down at the two. “Hello, you two. Did I miss anything?”

“Oh, no. Just some… cleaning, is all.”

“Never again,” Rainbow muttered.

“Come now, Twilight. You know that I wouldn’t have minded a small mess.”

Twilight stepped out of the way, allowing the princess to enter her home. “I know,” she admitted, “but things feel different somehow.” Twilight grabbed the box of candles in her magic and brought it over to her. “I mean, this isn’t something that ponies find every day. These artifacts are hundreds of years old, and were created under your order. I just have so many questions! This is so exciting!”

A gracious laugh left Celestia’s muzzle as she sat down next to Twilight. Seeing her young student so excited was always an enjoyable sight to see. “Yes, I can’t blame you. I myself wasn’t expecting such a… sudden development such as this. I always believed that these items were either destroyed or lost forever.”

“Well, these were hidden in the basement walls,” Twilight said. “Whoever had them before didn’t want anypony else finding them, but why?”

Celestia took the box from Twilight, wrapping it in her own golden glow.

“So, what’s the big deal with those things anyway?” Rainbow asked, hovering next to the two. “Sounds like a lot of trouble just to hide a few magic candles.”

Celestia analyzed the box with scrutinizing focus, looking over every little detail as though she was deciding if it was the real thing or not. Her expression didn’t falter. She didn’t show a hint of emotion, not even for an instant. No interest. No worry. Nothing.

Neither Twilight nor Rainbow were even sure if the princess heard them, but they weren’t about to say anything. After an agonizingly long few seconds, Celestia slowly, almost nervously, opened the box. And there they were. The items that she herself had nearly forgotten about. The items that filled her heart with both hope and fear. The items that could very well determine the fate of Equestria. They were right there in her grasp. After so many years of waiting, her search could finally continue.

“Princess Celestia?”

Celestia snapped out of her small stupor long enough to look down at her young student. “Yes, Twilight?”

“Are you okay? It looked like we lost you for a moment there.”

Celestia took one more glance at the candles before shutting the box and setting it aside. “My apologies. I just… I never imagined that I would actually see the day when I lay eyes on such things yet again.”

Twilight and Rainbow shared a quick glance with each other. “Speaking of which,” Twilight began, “Rainbow did ask a pretty good question. Why did you have these candles made, and why would somepony want to hide them?”

Celestia softly sighed to herself. “As I’ve stated in my letter, these are no ordinary candles. You see, they have a very special function. They allow—"

“Allow access to the memories of the subject’s ancestors via their DNA,” Twilight finished, sounding no different than a filly answering a teacher’s question.

The sudden, and correct, answer left Celestia momentarily speechless. “Well… yes,” she finally said. “But how did you know?”

Twilight brought over both the experiment notes and her own journal over to them. “I found this in there with the candles.” She gave Celestia the old, dusty journal, placing her own back on the desk. “I had trouble reading the language that it was written in, so I translated it myself. I just sort of figured things out as I went along.”

Celestia flipped through the journal, not so much reading it, but rather glancing over the pages. “I see.”

“It probably helped that I saw the candles in action up close, too,” Twilight added. Now, against her better judgment, she had a bit of a habit of predicting the reactions of others. Perhaps it was a part of her analytical nature, or maybe she simply enjoyed always being one step ahead. Either way, she simply couldn’t help herself, not even with the princess.

At that particular moment, Twilight expected something along the lines of a small nod or even an encouraging comment. What she did not expect was for Celestia to stop reading mid-page and slowly bring her eyes up to meet Twilight’s. The gaze alone made the unicorn shrink into her pillow, but the undeniable, unnerving, and downright terrifying seriousness behind that gaze had her shaking in her seat. It was an expression that she rarely saw, and when she did, it was never under good circumstances.

Slowly, Celestia placed the journal down before standing back up, towering over Twilight, staring down at her with those same, intimidating eyes. “You saw the candle’s effects with your very eyes?” she asked, voice low and somber.

It took Twilight a moment, but she was eventually able to determine the niggling feeling brewing in her stomach. It was regret. Through the crippling anxiety, she finally managed to find her voice, weak and shaky as it was. “Y-yes,” she answered.

“And who did it affect?”

Rainbow Dash quickly touched down next to Twilight. “That’d be where I come in.”

Celestia’s gaze immediately shifted over to the pegasus, eyebrow slightly raised. “It was you?”

Either Rainbow didn’t look Celestia directly in the eye or she had nerves of steel, but she didn’t shrink back in the slightest. “Uh-huh. And let me tell ya, it was all kinds of freaky.” She shivered a bit just from remembering it all. “Yeah, not fun.”

In another instance of Twilight mispredicting a pony’s reaction, Celestia took a single step towards Rainbow. Twilight could hardly believe it herself, but there was a strange glint in Celestia’s eyes. One of pleading.

“What did you see?” Celestia asked. “Can you remember?”

Twilight was speechless. There was desperation behind the princess’ voice, as though she was grasping at straws, worried that something was about to be lost to her forever.

Rainbow, on the other end, wasn’t as perceptive. She was more concerned with having to explain the things that she saw to the princess of all ponies. It shouldn’t have been that difficult, seeing as how Celestia was probably alive during that time, but something about explaining it all just didn’t bode well with the pegasus. She wanted to just get it all out and over with, but the words kept catching in her throat, as though they simply refused to be spoken.

Unfortunately, time to compose herself wasn’t a luxury that she had. Celestia took another step forward, growing strangely restless. “Rainbow, please. I understand what you saw may not have been pleasant, but you must tell me.”

Even with Celestia’s insistence, Rainbow still had difficulty finding the will to speak. It was something that she had put a lot of time and effort into forgetting about, and now she had to recount it all again. Granted, it wouldn’t have been the first time she had to muscle through something that she really didn’t want to do, but this all felt different. It wasn’t eat-your-dandelions levels. It wasn’t even pose-in-Rarity’s-dresses levels. It was on another tier entirely. But it was still something that she had to do.

She took a deep breath, finally finding her voice. “Well, I didn’t really see much. I don’t even know what city I—er, she—was in. I did see a bunch of guards, though. A lot more than I ever see today, even in Canterlot. But here’s the weird thing. I couldn’t recognize their armor. They didn’t look like your guards, or even Luna’s guards.”

Celestia became noticeably calmer in her posture. “I see. Did anything else happen?”

Rainbow’s head drooped down as the memories she tried so hard to forget came rushing back into her mind. She kept her eyes on the floor. She couldn’t bring herself to look at the princess, not with what she was about to say. “Yeah. Then I—I mean, she—killed them.” Rainbow had no idea what to expect after that. The unnerving silence that followed certainly didn’t help in the slightest.

After several, agonizing seconds, Rainbow, against her better judgment, snuck a glance up at the princess. Celestia showed nothing. No disgust. No concern. No worry. Completely emotionless. Rainbow didn’t know if that was better or worse.

“I see,” she finally said. It wasn’t anything that Rainbow or Twilight thought she’d say, but they weren’t about to complain. But just as the tension in the air began to lessen, Celestia added something else. “Is that all?”

What?! I just told you that my ancestor killed ponies, and that’s what you have to say? That was what Rainbow wanted to say. Unfortunately, it instead came out as a serious of unintelligible spurts and babbling. A shame, too. It sounded pretty intimidating in her head.

Fortunately, Twilight took control of the conversation. “Um, Princess Celestia?” she called, recapturing the princess’ attention. “Is something bothering you?” It wasn’t necessarily what Rainbow would’ve said, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

After a moment’s pause, Celestia nodded. “I would be lying if I said no.”

“What is it?” Twilight asked. “Can we help at all?”

“Perhaps.”

“It’s got something to do with those candles, right?” Rainbow asked.

Celestia nodded once again. “Yes, and I will explain their significance in due time. But…” Celestia approached a nearby window. Gently easing back the curtains, she peered outside.

At first glance, there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary, simply ponies walking by, going about their daily lives. But there was a niggling sense of paranoia itching in Celestia’s mind. If what she suspected of happening was actually true, then she needed to ensure that they weren’t there as well. After a scant few seconds, she found them.

Gathered only a few dozen meters from the library was a small group of ponies. To any unsuspecting passerby, they didn’t seem like much; some chatted with each other, other simply relaxed and took in the peace around them. Celestia, however, knew better.

One of those ponies, a young, blue stallion rested on a bench near the library. His eyes scanned over a book floating in his red aura, hardly concerned with anything else around him.

Celestia’s scrutinizing gaze threatened to bore a hole through the stallion’s very being. It may have just been a hunch, but it was a very strong one, and Celestia was very rarely wrong when it came to her judgments.

Sure enough, after a few seconds, the stallion snuck the quickest of glances towards the library. Towards Celestia. It was practically invisible to the untrained eye, but it wasn’t enough to escape Celestia’s gaze. It was all that she needed to see.

Slowly, she shut the curtains and turned back towards Twilight and Rainbow. “We cannot discuss it here,” she said. “It isn’t safe.”

Twilight, always the curious one, took a tentative step forward. “What do you mean?

“I’ll explain later.” Celestia quickly wrapped her horn in a golden yellow aura. “For now, get close to me, both of you.”

Twilight and Rainbow shared another nervous glance before stepping towards the princess. As they did, they felt a familiar tingling sensation as Celestia’s magic enveloped their bodies. In an instant, the three disappeared in a flash of light. Outside, nopony seemed to have noticed the flash, save for one.

From his book, the blue stallion ever so slightly directed his attention towards the library. There was no more talking. No more movement. The place was empty. They were gone, and Celestia was responsible. All of this time that passed, and she was still no less wary of them. That was bound to prove troublesome. Regardless, they couldn’t allow that to stop them, not while they had other matters to attend to.

He switched his focus towards a pair of chatting pegasi in front of him. The moment he did, they ceased their little talk. He nodded his head, a signal that prompted the two to fly off into the sky.

As for the stallion, he gently placed his book back in his saddlebags before getting off of the bench. After one quick glance around his environment, he made a beeline for the library.

Little did he know, he failed to notice one other pony watching him from afar. A pink mare with a dull white mane observed the stallion as he entered the library.

Hmph. So they’re finally making their move,she thought. Excellent. Just when I thought things were about to get boring.

Now, she just needed to wait.

----

Celestia, Rainbow, and Twilight reappeared in the safe confines of Celestia’s bedroom. While Twilight and Rainbow took a moment to regain their bearings, Celestia simply used her moment of peace to breathe a relieved sigh. “Good. It should be safe here,” she said.

Twilight was quick to regain her senses. She looked over at Celestia as the princess walked over to one of her bookshelves. “What do you mean ‘safe’?” she asked. “What’s happening here?”

As Celestia made her way to the bookshelf, something on her desk caught her eye. Her unfinished bowl of oats sat atop it, accompanied by a note leaning against the porcelain.

It would be a shame to let these go to waste. And, ‘Tia, if something is bothering you, please let me know. Perhaps I can be of assistance.

-Luna

A tiny smile graced Celestia’s face for a second before returning to its stalwart expression. “All of this goes far deeper than either of you could imagine,” she said, stopping in front of the bookshelf. “Especially for you, Rainbow Dash.”

Rainbow, naturally, raised a confused eyebrow. “Yeah, you lost me.”

A calm sigh left Celestia’s muzzle as she took down a blank, white, leather-bound book. “While it is true that these candles allow access to otherwise inaccessible memories, they don’t work on just anypony.” Celestia shifted attention over to the ancient, wooden box lying next to Twilight. “They target ponies with one, specific set of genes. Or, to put in simpler terms, these candles only work on the blood relatives of one family.”

Twilight felt a small chill run down her spine, and she wasn’t even the one Celestia was necessarily talking to. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what must’ve been running through Rainbow mind at that moment. The pegasus had already gone through something that she wouldn’t wish on her worst of enemies, and now she just learned that it was designed to target her. Her family.

Twilight slowly took a sideways glance at her friend. Rainbow’s face wasn’t too overtly shocked or terrified. A slightly opened mouth and slightly widened eyes; the look of a pony trying to process what they had just heard. As the words sunk in, her eyes and mouth only grew wider until, finally, realization struck.

“So, you’re saying that those freaky candles only work on my family?” Her tone was surprisingly calm, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing in Twilight’s eyes.

Celestia slowly shut her eyes as she nodded. Twilight caught Rainbow sneak a glance at the box beside her, her eyes filled with caution. However, instead of sweating or gulping down a lump of fear or anxiety, Rainbow only nodded. More to herself than anything else.

“So… why?” was all that Rainbow asked.

Celestia snapped back up at the pegasus, caught off guard by the sudden, and rather vague question. “Hmm? Why what?”

Rainbow stared the princess dead in the eye with a seriousness that Twilight rarely ever saw in her. “Why me? Why my family? Why even have those stupid candles made in the first place? There’s a question you didn’t answer yet!”

Both Twilight and Celestia only stood there, shocked by Rainbow’s passionate questioning of the princess’ admittedly questionable actions. It was something that Celestia seemed to be expecting, however. She walked back over to the two, the white book floating by her side.

“Your ancestors are more important to the future of Equestria than you may believe, Rainbow Dash.” She took a seat on one of her lush cushions, inviting Rainbow and Twilight to do the same. As they settled down, she continued. “It is no coincidence that you saw the memories that you did. The candles not only target ponies of a specific bloodline, but activate specific memories as well. As for why I had them created? Well, I need to know things that only your ancestors did in order to… find something.”

Twilight gulped down her growing anxiety as that ominous tone crawled into Celestia’s voice. “Find what?”

Celestia breath a tired, solemn sigh. “Tell me,” she began, “have either of you heard of the Pieces of Equestria?”

If Rainbow cocked her head any harder to the side, it would’ve popped right off of her shoulder. “The piece-a-what?”

“I suppose that’s a no.” Celestia turned her focus towards her young student. “What about you, Twilight?”

Twilight went through every mental textbook in her head. All of her history lessons, all of her history studies and experiments, yet nothing came back that was even remotely related to these ‘Pieces of Equestria’. Dejected, she could only shake her head. “Sorry, princess, but I haven’t heard of them, either.”

Despite her student’s disappointment, Celestia still put on a smile. “It is quite alright. It’s nothing to feel ashamed of, young Twilight. These items are virtually unknown to all save my sister and I. We have ensured that they were forgotten from history, and for very good reason.” Celestia could tell just from Twilight and Rainbow’s faces that they wanted to know more. “These items are second in power only to the Elements of Harmony. If anypony ever came in possession of one, it could spell absolute disaster for all of Equestria.”

The tension in the room weighed Twilight and Rainbow down like bricks. Thankfully, Celestia was quick to alleviate it.

“Thankfully, I have them in my custody and ensured that no one will be able to find them.” No sooner did Twilight and Rainbow heave a relieved sigh did Celestia drop another bomb. “Unfortunately, there is still one that continues to elude me.” And just like that, the bricks of tension came crashing back down.

Celestia to the white book from under her wings and held it before the two mares. She quickly flipped to a specific page. “This is that item.” She lowered it for the two of them to see. It was simply a multitude of pictures of a very peculiar object simply referred to as ‘The Apple’.

It was a perfectly spherical ball crafted from the finest gold that Twilight had ever seen. The strange engravings wrapping around its surface only further piqued her interest. Simply looking at it filled her with some type of hypnotic wonder.

Rainbow, however, couldn’t say that she was filled with the same odd wonder. As she stared at the pictures, a sense of nostalgia washed over her, like she was observing pictures of an old relative. That nostalgia was quickly washed away when a splitting headache tore right through her skull. The pegasus cried out, clutching at her head as she grew dazed, the world spinning around her.

“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight cried, helping the pegasus stay on her hooves. Rainbow clutched at her head with both front hooves, holding back cries of pain as red-arrows pierced into her skull. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it was some of the longest that she ever had to endure. “Are you okay?” Twilight asked.

Rainbow took a moment to rub her still aching head. “Ow. Yeah, I think so. What the hay was that all about?”

“Side effects of the candle, perhaps?” Celestia suggested.

Twilight tapped a hoof to her chin as she thought on that. “Oh, right. The journal did mention headaches as one of the more common ones. But I think it said the stronger ones don’t occur without some kind of stimulation. Rainbow, did something just happen?”

Rainbow shook the lingering pain out of her head before looking back down at the book. “Yeah. That ‘Apple’ thing. It looks… familiar, but I never saw the thing before.”

“But perhaps your ancestor did,” Celestia interjected.

“Right. And I’m just gonna go out on a limb here and say that’s why you need me.”

Celestia nodded. “Only your ancestors know of this piece’s whereabouts. Only through them, through you, will I be able to find it before anyone else does. You are a crucial part of this, Rainbow Dash. I understand that you may not want to, and I will not force you to, but know that it will be for the betterment of Equestria.”

Despite her claims, Rainbow couldn’t help but narrow her eyes. “You’re saying that you won’t force me, but you want me to do it anyway, don’t you?”

“I dislike forcing anyone to do anything. Growing up, I’ve learned that choice is what shapes a pony’s identity. If you wish to learn what a pony is truly like, then give them the freedom of choice. So, I give you this choice, Rainbow Dash.” With a burst of magic, Celestia flung open the door to her balcony. “You can choose to leave now and continue your life in blissful ignorance, or you can help me ensure Equestria’s safety for the millennia to come.”

At face value, the choice seemed obvious, but the more Rainbow thought on it, the more hesitant she became. Her mind not only drifted back to the horrors she saw, but also to the things Twilight told her. The ‘side effects’. She already got a healthy dose of one, she didn’t want to think of anything else that could happen. The very thought of becoming anything like that murderer she had to call an ancestor made her want to leave right there.

At the same time, she couldn’t just pretend that none of this ever happened. If what Celestia said was true, then anything that came afterwards would be on her hooves. She wasn’t going to like it, but she knew what she had to do. “Fine,” she muttered.

Celestia’s ears perked up at the announcement. “You’ll do it?” she asked, genuine surprise in her voice.

“Rainbow, are you sure?” Twilight asked.

Rainbow nodded, albeit begrudgingly. “Yeah, I’m sure. If all of this Piece-of-whatever thing is true, then I can’t just turn my back on Equestria, can I? That’d be totally uncool of me.”

It didn’t take a lot to see that Rainbow was worried, but that didn’t stop Twilight from cracking a reassuring smile. Celestia got up from her seat and approached the pegasus. “Mere words cannot describe the gratitude that I feel.”

Rainbow simply shrugged, trying her best to keep it nice and cool. “Yeah, well, it’s not like I could’ve said no. Like I said, uncool.” Rainbow’s confident smile gave way to a nervous frown as she glanced down at the candles. “So, I guess we start now?” she asked, her voice laden with worry.

Celestia seemed a tad nervous herself. “It would be best, yes, though I understand your hesitation.”

An awkward chuckle left Rainbow’s muzzle. “Hesitation,” she muttered. “There’s a nice way of putting it.” She looked over at Twilight. “You gonna stay here?”

Twilight looked down at the white book. “I was actually thinking about reading up on these ‘Pieces’. I may be able to find something that might help us.”

“Well, the castle library is always available to you, Twilight,” Celestia said, much to her student’s beaming delight.

Rainbow, however, simple rolled her eyes. “Figures. I get mind probed by a lousy candle, and you get to play in your books.” She received a light nudge from Twilight before the unicorn picked up the white book.

“Princess Celestia. She’ll be okay, right?”

“Rest assured, I will ensure that no harm comes to her.”

Twilight gave the two one last smile before trotting out of the bedroom. Before Rainbow could even look back at Celestia, the princess was already preparing the next candle, placing it firmly in a candle holder on her desk.

“So, how is this gonna work?” Rainbow asked.

“From past experiences, I’ve learned that I can’t simply jump to certain memories. The mind needs time to properly construct the later memories as we travel through the earlier ones. As a result, we may have to go through multiple sessions before we find something useful.”

“Oh.” So it was going to take a while. Needless to say, that wasn’t what Rainbow wanted to hear. “And the sessions? How long are those gonna be?”

“The candles themselves can burn for hours. However, due to the rather severe side effects from prolonged exposure, sessions only lasted for thirty minutes, an hour at the very most.”

If second thoughts were only creeping into Rainbow’s mind before, then they were kicking down her mental door at this point.

Celestia was quick to catch on to that and gave her a calm, reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. With this being your first time, this session will be shorter. Say, five minutes? During that time, I will make sure that nothing happens to you.”

Rainbow gulped down the lump of anxiety building in her throat. “Right. Thanks.”

With the candle firmly in place, Celestia stood aside. “Are you ready?”

Rainbow sat down in front of the candle, much to the protest of every instinct in her body. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

Celestia only nodded before channeling magic into her horn. As the candle’s wick sizzled and burned, every fiber of Rainbow’s being was telling—demanding—her to turn tail. The memories from last night came rushing back into her mind, every scarring detail still crystal clear. The oppression, the violence, the death, was it something that she wanted to experience again? No. Did she wish that things were different? Absolutely. Was she going to run away to save her own skin? Not a snowball’s chance on the sun.

As the green, serpentine flame dug into Rainbow’s mind, sifting its way through very DNA, Celestia could only stand by and mutter a single sentence.

“Thank you, Rainbow Dash.”