• Published 1st Oct 2020
  • 1,858 Views, 297 Comments

Equal Opportunity Ascension - Cast-Iron Caryatid



Twilight Sparkle is a bit underwhelmed with her ascension to alicornhood and, after a disastrous coronation ceremony, it becomes clear that something is missing. It'd be a shame if somepony else got to it before she did.

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Chapter 1

Twilight was willing to admit, she was a bit off-kilter and more than a little sleep-deprived. Yesterday evening, after the day’s usual sort of shenanigans that regularly happened in Ponyville, she’d suddenly sprouted wings, and she hadn’t quite managed to regain her equilibrium since then. Sure, she’d tried to get some sleep after getting shuffled onto a train to Canterlot, but she hadn’t quite managed it, what with everypony asking her question after question, and she hadn’t quite been willing to tell them all to be quiet for a moment so that she could think.

Ever since then, she’d been pushed from one thing to another—getting fitted for a crown that she’d probably only wear to fancy events, among other things—and she was still wondering if maybe she’d tripped and hit her head, and this was all some sort of ridiculous fever dream. She really didn’t feel much like an alicorn princess at just this moment, and that seemed like the sort of thing that would change… well, something. In spite of the wings stuck to her back like a pair of fluffy cicadas, Twilight still just felt like an ordinary unicorn.

Which was fine, she supposed. Well, it was a little disappointing, if she were being honest with herself. Really, who hadn’t imagined being an alicorn princess when they were foals? Realizing that alicorns were really just normal ponies was a bit of a hit to her worldview, and she was still adjusting. Worse, she was surrounded by ponies who were very much on the other side of the masquerade, and she didn’t need to study friendship for as long as she had to guess that they wouldn’t appreciate having the illusion broken.

Okay, that was a lie. Before Twilight had moved to Ponyville, she absolutely would have been as blunt as possible in shattering the dreams of anypony that got between her and a quiet afternoon with a book.

Still, Twilight felt bad that everypony else was just making so big of a deal about it and she just wasn’t feeling it. Fortunately, she hadn’t yet been asked to make a speech, because she hadn’t had a single moment to plan one and she wasn’t sure if she could wing it convincingly. The basic ideas were all there in her head in the same way she’d know what to expect if it was somepony else who would be taking up a crown in the name of Equestria, but it was only about that much. She’d say that she was incredibly proud to have earned her ascension into the ranks of the Equestrian nobility and would do her best to live up to this great opportunity… or something… but all it would be is words.

Most of those things were true, of course. It really was an honor and she really would do her best to live up to the mantle, but… she hadn’t earned it, had she? She was still stuck on that. How she’d actually become an alicorn and some of the things she’d been told about the heretofore unknown feat of having created new magic…

…Well, it didn’t make a lot of sense, did it?

“We’re here, Twilight,” Princess Celestia announced, bringing Twilight out of her brief moment of reflection.

‘Here,’ as it turned out, was a large balcony overlooking the west castle courtyard where over a thousand ponies were gathered, because of course it was. Twilight very much didn’t want to disappoint her mentor, but she also very much didn’t want to go out there and make a fool of herself in front of that many ponies.

“P-princess,” Twilight stammered. “This isn’t—I don’t have a speech prepared or anything!”

“Relax, Twilight,” Princess Celestia reassured, placing a hoof on Twilight’s withers to calm her—or maybe it was to keep her from running away. “It isn’t anything to worry about. It doesn’t have to be a dissertation—in fact, I rather expect they would prefer it wasn’t. Just a few words of reassurance will do.”

Well… that didn’t sound so bad.

“And then you fly out over the crowd to finish off the day.”

Princess Celestia began to walk forward, guiding Twilight with the hoof on her withers, but Twilight took one step and then stopped dead in her tracks, not sure if she heard that quite right. “Wait, I do what now?”

“Fly out over the crowd,” Princess Celestia repeated, making it sound quite reasonable when the logical part of Twilight’s mind insisted that it was anything but. “You haven’t forgotten that you have wings now, have you? I assure you, they work perfectly fine. In fact, I’m surprised that you’ve been able to keep yourself from experimenting with them for this long.”

“But—Princess!” Twilight pleaded. “You’re missing the part where I don’t know how to fly!”

“Nonsense!” Princess Celestia beamed cheerily. “Why, it wasn’t more than ten minutes after Luna’s ascension that she was flitting all over the place and complaining about dust in the rafters. All you need to do is take a good jump off the balcony and spread your wings. Your instincts will do the rest. The worst that can happen is you freeze up and glide down, which will do just fine.”

Instincts? Twilight wasn’t entirely convinced that she had any instincts. What would they feel like? Was she supposed to have an inner-pegasus now that wanted nothing more than to take to the sky and wiggle her wings? She did have an urge to be anywhere but where she was as she was levitated out onto the balcony by the golden glow of Princess Celestia’s magic that became all but invisible as she passed into the noonday sun, but she was fairly sure that was just nerves.

Speaking of which: Crowd. Speech. Now. Twilight took all of her nervousness, uncertainty and doubt and pushed them away. Her princesshood might not have sunk in quite yet after only half a day, but she’d been the bearer of the Element of Magic and the princess’ protege for much longer than that, and that was something that she could fall back on. When something needed to get done, she’d do it and worry about the rest later.

Twilight stepped forward, took a breath and prepared to speak.

Err, what was it that Princess Celestia had said she needed to say? Right. A few words of reassurance.

Twilight drew herself up to stand proudly over the crowd, noting with some nervousness the lack of railing for just such an occasion as this and spoke, “Everything’s going to be just fine!”

Then she spread her wings and jumped off the balcony.

The entire crowd winced at the audible crunch of her body hitting the ground directly below.

***

The first thing the Twilight noticed when she groggily awoke was that she was in her bed at the Golden Oaks Library. She felt a palpable sense of relief at this, since it meant that all that nonsense about her ascending as an Alicorn and being crowned princess had all been just a dream.

Also, the whole jumping to her death thing. Come to think of it, that should have made it obvious that it was a dream. That was prime nightmare material—like the ones she had about showing up for class only to discover that she hadn’t been given a schedule, or standing in front of a class for a presentation only to realize that all of her notes were blank. Going through a whole coronation ceremony to celebrate her becoming an alicorn only for her wings to not work would fit right in.

Thank Celestia. It would have been mortifying had that actually happened in real life.

Twilight was happily basking in the early morning sun coming through her window and enjoying the short lie-in before her alarm when she rolled over and felt something under her. Figuring that it was a bundled-up blanket and miffed about having to move, Twilight shifted, reached around and did her level best to pull it free.

That was not what happened.

The scream she let out at having her wing nearly dislocated brought a clattering of claws and hooves scrambling up the stairs.

The soft, “Oh my,” that came from the door was distinctly Fluttershy, while the one that rushed over to her bedside and started climbing up, asking if she was okay, was, of course, Spike.

“It’s... fine,” she lied unconvincingly, wincing in pain and she tried to shift herself back into a normal position so that she could see Fluttershy, Spike and… actually, that was it; it was just them.

Twilight ignored them for just a moment while she took stock of her situation, if just to confirm that, yes—if the pain in her side wasn’t a clear enough sign—she did, in fact, have wings.

Wonderful.

Twilight couldn’t help but shrink down into the covers as she came to the conclusion that this also meant that she had taken a swan dive into the ground in front of all those ponies. She was suddenly very glad that Rainbow Dash wasn’t there at the moment; she really didn’t want to know what the flight-obsessed mare would have to say about her… performance.

Celestia, on the other hoof, she wasn’t sure if she wanted there or not. On the one hoof, she felt that she would be justified in wanting to give her a piece of her mind, but on the other… If Twilight could just find a hole to crawl into and never talk to her mentor again, that could work too.

“I’m fine... I think?” Twilight told them, only belatedly realizing that she should probably be injured. “Actually, why am I not in the hospital?” she thought out loud, then added, “Or at least Canterlot, for that matter.”

“Given how, um, public your injury was, Princess Celestia decided that it would be best if you spent your recovery somewhere that you wouldn’t be harassed,” Fluttershy informed her.

“Away from the vultures in the media, she means,” Spike added. “And you didn’t really need hospitalization, what with the whole alicorn thing.”

“What does being an Alicorn have to do with anything?” Twilight asked. “I’m still a flesh and blood pony.”

“You’re actually kind of... not,” Fluttershy admitted.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Twilight asked. A poke in the slight bit of paunch that she had on her flank assured her that she was definitely flesh and blood, and no matter how out of it she was, she would have noticed if she had been turned into something other than a pony.

“Celestia really didn’t explain it too well?” Spike said a little awkwardly, scratching at the back of his neck. “But what I got out of it was that you’re sort of like a ghost possessing yourself. Not that you died or anything! Or that you can’t die, but instead of a body supporting a soul, you’re more like a soul supporting a body.”

“Be honest, Spike. How much of that is what Celestia said and how much is from your latest comic book?”

“Fifty-fifty?” Spike said, momentarily avoiding meeting Twilight’s eyes. “But it’s a good example!”

“I’m sure it is,” Twilight said with a roll of her eyes, letting the subject go. She had other things to concern herself with right now than semantics. “So… I definitely am an alicorn, then?” she asked, directing the question at Fluttershy.

“Oh, yes,” Fluttershy confirmed, gently folding Twilight’s tender wing back up. “See for yourself.”

Twilight craned her neck to see what Fluttershy was talking about; surrounding the joint where her wing connected to her body was the glow of a strange sort of magic that she had never seen before. It was pink, like her normal magic, but more viscous, flowing out from her barrel, flowing over the surface of the joint that she’d just pulled and then back below the surface as it traveled down her wing to the tips of her feathers. The shape of it was cohesive, almost solid in a way that magic wasn’t. It was almost as if there was another her made of magic standing in the same place that she was, with only that part being slightly off or swollen.

Internally, Twilight guessed that maybe Spike’s description might have been more on the nose than she’d thought, but she wasn’t going to admit it out loud.

Gently, Twilight flexed her wing ever so slightly, just to watch the phantom image of her joint flex with it.

Weird… and not really helping the reality of the situation to sink in. It made her want to blink and squint to get it in focus, or maybe clean her glasses.

She didn’t wear glasses.

She did wear safety goggles on occasion, though. Proper PPE was important.

Where was she, again? Oh, right.

“I don’t suppose that the princess said anything about the whole…” Twilight glanced back at her wings, not sure how to describe that moment of terror when she’d leapt into the air and dropped like a sack full of hardcovers.

Spike and Fluttershy both shook their heads, though the latter did have one anecdote of her own to add.

“Not all pegasi are the strongest of fliers. I know I’m not. It’s rare, but it can happen that a pegasus is born without even the ability to get off the ground. I don’t know how being an alicorn is supposed to change things, but everything has to come from somewhere; it’s possible that if you’d been born a pegasus, you’d have been one of those ponies, and now that you’re an alicorn, one third of you is that pegasus.”

“That… makes far too much sense,” Twilight admitted.

“Or,” Spike added, lowering his voice for effect. “A demon from tartarus has stolen your alicorn powers and you’ll need the power of all the Elements of Harmony—plus the timely help of one arc-specific friend—to stop him and reclaim them just in time to prevent the secret of your powerlessness from getting out!!”

“Spike,” Twilight said with a sigh. “Thousands of ponies saw me jump off that balcony. I’m sure all of Equestria knows about it by now.”

“Oh, right,” Spike said. “It’s probably the other thing, then.”