• Published 1st Oct 2020
  • 1,851 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 2

The door to the basement of the Golden Oaks library hadn’t creaked ominously since about a week after Twilight had moved to Ponyville. There was a part of her that occasionally regretted this fact, such as situations where she was feeling dramatic, or, more often, when she would have really liked to have known that somepony was sneaking up on her.

“Hey, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash greeted from directly behind her.

Twilight jumped at the interruption, scattering what she was working on all over the floor with several heavy thuds and a metallic clatter.

“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight cried out in aggravation. “Don’t do that! Somepony could have gotten hurt!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow Dash said, dismissing Twilight’s concern. “I’m sure your—err… Twilight?”

“What is it, Rainbow?” Twilight asked with a sigh, levitating what she was working on back into order.

Rainbow Dash pointed at the large, round slabs of metal on the floor with a length of bar between them. “Were you… lifting weights?”

Twilight let out a huff not entirely out of exasperation. “Yes, Rainbow. I was lifting weights.”

“Um, good on you, I guess?” Rainbow Dash said, taking a wider look around the basement. “Is this about the—”

“No, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight interrupted. “This is not about me getting tired ten minutes into your so-called ‘flying lessons.’”

“Hey!” Rainbow Dash shouted, growing indignant. “There’s nothing wrong with my lessons! It’s tradition!”

“And flailing about, screaming myself raw after you drop me from 50,000 hooves up is tiring,” Twilight countered.

Rainbow Dash refused to dignify that with a response. “So why the weights, then?”

“I was lifting them with my magic, actually,” Twilight explained.

Rainbow Dash blinked. “Does that—”

“No—well, sort of—yes, I guess,” Twilight said, stumbling over her answer. She’d never actually heard of unicorns exercising their magic like that, but there was probably somepony out there doing it and she couldn’t see any reason that it wouldn’t work. “But it isn’t about that. I was gathering various metrics so I could characterize the effect my alicorn ascension has had on my unicorn magic.”

“I understood most of that,” Rainbow Dash said, phrasing it as a positive.

“Since becoming an alicorn, my magic has gotten stronger,” Twilight explained. “But magic and the usage of it isn’t just one thing. Being able to lift twice as much with my magic isn’t the same as being able to move what I lift twice as fast or hold it for twice as long, and that’s just one spell—not even a spell, really, but the concept translates perfectly fine to more complicated applications of magic.”

“So, you’re twice as strong?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Twilight frowned and said, “It’s complicated.”

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I heard you about strength, speed and stamina and all that. I get it. But strength-wise, what have you got?”

“No, I mean it’s actually complicated,” Twilight clarified. “At first I thought I was seeing an enhancement in basic lifting strength of about a hundred and fifty percent, but that’s where things get weird.” Seeing that Rainbow Dash’s attention was wandering, Twilight decided to skip the details and get to the conclusion. “I think that my unicorn magic hasn’t changed, and it’s my alicorn magic mixing with it that’s making it more potent, but that doesn’t just happen all at once. The alicorn magic is… thicker, for lack of a better word, causing a ramping effect as it builds up—and that’s another thing; it builds up and tends to linger. Weights that I lifted for ten minutes remained aloft for several more before showing any sign of tapering off and about the same amount of time again before the effect was completely gone.”

Rainbow Dash scrunched up her face in thought. “You know, I have no idea how that would work with flying.”

Twilight pressed her lips together in consternation at the reminder of her… inadequacies. “Yes, well, it seems to work fine for the other princesses, at least in normal usage. It might mean that they would excel in long-distance flight or it might manifest entirely differently with pegasus magic. It would help if I had one of them to ask.”

“So, you think if maybe you got your stamina up, the alicorn magic would kick in after a bit of effort?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Twilight’s face twinged in an unhappy grimace. “If I actually knew what I was doing, then maybe, but I can’t even tell when or even if I’m using my pegasus magic, so I’m really not hopeful in that regard.”

“Bummer,” Rainbow Dash said, clearly let down.

“After what happened at Sweet Apple Acres, though, I’m increasingly convinced that there’s a root cause other than Fluttershy’s theory about it being in my genetics to be a weak pegasus. I mean, what are the chances?”

Rainbow Dash blinked and cocked her head in question. “What happened at Sweet Apple Acres?”

Twilight opened her mouth to answer, paused and looked away, saying, “I don’t want to talk about it. Suffice to say, I won’t be making a living bucking apples any time soon.”

Rainbow Dash continued to flap in place for a moment, then drifted down to land on her hooves as the awkwardness began to get stifling.

“So, err, what did you come down here for anyway? Just to talk?” Twilight asked, attempting to change the subject.

“Oh! Uhh—right!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “Rarity wanted to fit you for something.”

Twilight glanced at the clock, which was nearing five in the afternoon, and let out a huff. “You could have said so sooner. We could have talked on the way.”

“Ehh… yeah, but the later she gets to you, the less likely it is she’ll have time to drag me into it.”

***

Twilight was surprised to find the rest of her friends all in attendance at the Carousel Boutique. Curiously looking around the room, she absently apologized. “Sorry if you were expecting us earlier, Rarity. Rainbow Dash took her time in getting the message to me.”

“All accounted for,” Rarity informed her happily as she pinned a yellow frill around the neck of Pinkie Pie, who was miraculously, if not entirely convincingly playing the part of a stone statue during her fitting. There was probably a story behind that, but Twilight didn’t really want to know.

“So, what’s the occasion?” Twilight asked instead, gravitating to a less crowded part of the room, which, of course, was next to Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash, concurrently, did her part by occupying the top half of the room as usual.

Keeping an eye on Pinkie Pie as if she was worried the excitable mare would explode given a single moment of inattention, Rarity retrieved a pin from the side of her mouth and used it to point down at Spike, who was holding a scroll sealed with an impression of Celestia’s cutie mark. “If I’m not mistaken, that letter will explain better than rumors and hearsay.”

Twilight cocked an eyebrow at the roundabout method of explanation, but her attention was quickly drawn to the letter from her mentor, who she hadn’t seen or heard from since her disastrous coronation.

Halfway between eagerness and apprehension, she broke the seal on the scroll and began to read.

Thirty seconds later, neither emotion had been satisfied. “What in the world is a ‘Princess Summit’?”

Applejack, who had been reading over Twilight’s shoulder along with Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, whistled and said, “Ain’t that just a fancy way of her saying, ‘We need to talk’?”

“Oh, it’s much more than that,” Rarity assured them. “As a ceremonial meeting of heads of state, we can expect at least one formal dinner, which is to say nothing of events happening on the periphery.”

“Rarity,” Twilight said, giving her a flat look. “It is literally my mentor, her sister and my old foalsitter. It might as well be a parent-teacher conference.”

“You know, that is weird,” Pinkie Pie said, then faux-whispered, “Do you ever get the impression that advancement in the ranks of our government might not be entirely based on merit?”

Twilight cringed at how close to some of her recent thoughts that actually came.

“Actually,” Rarity said to Twilight, ignoring Pinkie Pie’s random aside, as was custom. “While it is true that the purpose of this summit is to have all four of our princesses discuss issues facing Equestria, that doesn’t mean that only you four will be involved. In fact, this is an opportune time for visiting dignitaries to bring forward subjects for the summit to discuss. I have specifically heard that the duke of Maretonia will be in attendance to arrange several future events, and I expect he won’t be the only one.”

“Ah,” Twilight remarked, understanding. “Hence the dresses.”

“Hence the dresses,” Rarity confirmed, finishing up with Pinkie Pie and pulling the pinned-together assembly off of her in one piece. “Now,” Rarity said, giving Twilight a slightly wicked smile. “I believe it is your turn.”

For all that Rainbow Dash had made a fuss over it, getting fitted for a dress wasn’t actually all that big of a deal, though it was a little more trying than usual since she’d just spent all afternoon lifting weights, even if it was with magic. She thought that she’d done a fine enough job freshening up before heading out of the library, but Rarity’s version of the spell was a little more thorough.

As Twilight was fitted, the girls chatted, playfully poking fun at Twilight’s expected eventual increase in dress size due to her ascension—though there was no sign of it quite yet—and moving on to things that they would like to do in the Crystal Empire while they were there.

The answers were as one would expect, mostly revolving around seeing what their various interests were like given the difference in time and culture that the empire represented. Twilight admitted to having a desire to see what kind of otherwise lost books might be found there, though she wasn’t likely to have as much free time as her friends would.

Much to Rainbow Dash’s dismay, her delaying back at the library did her no good, as it wasn’t long before Twilight was stepping down from the stool and Rainbow Dash had to come down and sit still for her own time on it.

“Now, I realize that things haven’t exactly gone as anypony could have expected…” Rarity said, changing the subject away from Rainbow Dash’s measurements and looking at Twilight. “But alicorn features entirely aside, have you considered what you’re going to do about your position as a princess?”

Twilight’s ears flattened briefly. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “Ponies here in Ponyville have been nice enough to go on mostly as always other than my getting called ‘princess’ more often than not, and I think the fact that I’ve been more reclusive than usual trying to figure things out has mostly put a damper on the flow of outsiders who just want a look or a picture, but to be honest, I still don’t feel like much of a princess, so I’ve been trying not to think about it. It isn’t like I don’t have plenty of other things to concentrate on.”

“Oh, well no wonder!” Rarity exclaimed, making Rainbow Dash recoil from a pincushion that got a little too close. “Darling, you have it backwards. Of course you won’t feel like a princess if all you do is hide out in your basement and wait for ponies to go away.”

Twilight puffed up her cheeks in a pout. “I’m not—I’ve been doing research.”

“Of course you are,” Rarity dismissed. “But what you need is a change! Something new that will shake up your routine and remind you that you are more than just a small town librarian now.” Suddenly, she gasped, almost Pinkie-Pie-like. “And I know just the perfect thing!”

“You can have my library when you pull it from my cold, dead hooves,” Twilight darkly growled.

“… Not that, then,” Rarity said, moving on quickly. “Actually, that is a thought. It wouldn’t hurt for you to have some separation between your home and official business, so why not a separate palace?”

“I don’t know if I really need a palace,” Twilight said, blushing slightly. “But… an office of sorts might not be a bad idea, I suppose.”

“Twilight,” Rainbow Dash said, earning a severe look from Rarity for moving as she talked. “You’re missing the point. Do you think Cadance is going to meet the duke of Maretonia in an office? No! It’ll be in the throne room of a towering crystal palace, surrounded by bowing ponies and tapestries whose only point is to look awesome and say how awesome she is!”

“That’s two different points,” Twilight deadpanned, but her heart wasn’t in it. “Look, I’ll… I’ll think about it, okay? Maybe I’ll feel more like being princess-y after this summit.”

Rarity wasn’t gentle in yanking Rainbow Dash back into place. “That’s all we can ask,” she said, and began to talk about brocades.

Of course, this was Twilight, so she actually did think about it in between commenting on Rainbow Dash’s idea of style and various other subjects that came and went.

Was Rarity right? Should Twilight, in essence, play up the princess angle in hopes of eventually growing into it? That sounded like something she would have ended up writing a friendship letter about just a short while ago. Well, probably not her. Twilight had always been rather blunt at times, not one to fake being something she wasn’t, which was why the idea just rubbed her the wrong way.

This wasn’t quite the same as pretending to be somepony she wasn’t in order to get something, though. She already was a princess, no matter how much she didn’t feel it. She had a responsibility now, and that did include doing things that might be out of her comfort zone, like convince people to listen to her through the power of ostentatious bric-a-brac.

Of course, it was that sort of thinking that had resulted in her faceplanting into marble, so there really wasn’t any winning for her.

Twilight did her best not to let any of her friends see her sigh. Maybe things really would be clearer after the summit.