• Published 30th Aug 2012
  • 6,736 Views, 156 Comments

Guiding Light - archonix



Calamity befalls the royalty of Equestria and, in lieu of plans that took decades to create and moments to ruin, control of the cosmos is bequeathed to the only pony Celestia had time to empower.

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The First Day

Her thoughts strayed back over the one hundred and twenty years of her reign, the first century of her life eternal, to the very first day...

The First Day

Chaos. Pandemonium, even! The scene that greeted Twilight Sparkle within the walls of Canterlot Castle was a stark contrast to the relative calm of the streets outside. Servants rushed hither and yon, ministers of state and civil servants clumped and skulked in twos and threes and fours, heads pressed close together in urgent debate. Over everything the palace guard watched with weary, suspicious eyes, standing at every conceivable entry and exit, every pillar. There were many more than usual.

Her brother. Twilight had to find Shining Armour, he would know what was going on. He could explain the urgent summons she had received less than an hour ago, demanding her immediate presence before the Princess.

If she could find him before everyone found her, that was.

But the crowd was already parting. Few could fail to recognise the youngest Archmage in Equestria's history, fewer still the robes of office she had hastily donned on her way to the court. A wave of silence spread out from those stood around her and the crowd stepped back. WIth no choice left but to press forward, Twilight made her way through the milling throng to the great doors of the throne room.

What she found beyond was unexpected. A guard in the livery of a Commander saluted in greeting. With him stood a unicorn Twilight thought she recognised, but she was unsure where they had met. The throne beyond stood empty.

"Archmage Sparkle, ma'am, I am Commander Sure Stride, acting head of the Royal Guard."

"Acting—where's Shining Armour?"

Sure Stride swallowed and glanced at the unicorn by his side. "We don't know."

"You don't know?" Twilight took a step toward the nervous guard. "You don't know? How can you not know where my brother is? He's the Captain of the entire Guard!"

"Ma'am, please." Sure Stride took a step back as Twilight advanced on him. She felt her power rising and let it flare in her eyes and along her mane. The Commander paled visibly and took another step back.

"Tell me, Commander, what is going on. The court is in chaos! The Princess summoned me personally—"

"We know."

Twilight's ire vanished at the sound of the other unicorn's voice. She turned to the youth – though in reality she was not much younger than Twilight herself – and glared. "Speak then!"

"You never used to be this grumpy," the unicorn said. "Mom always said you were nice."

She paused and seemed to wait for a response from Twilight, but the Archmage had nothing to say. Such familiarity from any other than her closest friends was unusual these days, it shocked her to hear it from a stranger. Twilight's head tilted of its own accord as she looked the youth up and down.

"I—what are you doing here?"

"I only arrived a little while ago with my sister. The royal family—Twilight, I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"They all disappeared," she said, as if relaying the weather forecast, though her eyes narrowed as she spoke.

"As far as we can tell," Sure Stride chimed in, "everyone immediately related to the royal family is gone. The Princesses, Prince Blueblood, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, a few dukes, duchesses, marquis and other lesser nobles have all completely vanished. I'm afraid it is likely your brother may have suffered the same fate."

Twilight fell to her haunches, unable to breathe. Gone. Just like that. Gone. She shook her head but couldn't say anything much in reply. What would she tell her parents? Silence stretched out in the court hall, deserted except for these two and her own self. A snuffling moan echoed around the room and Twilight wondered who could be so crass at a moment like this, until she realised it was her own voice. Her own tears. She felt her forelegs buckle and it was only the quick action of Sure Stride that saved her from an undignified flop to the floor.

"I'm sorry, Archmage Sparkle. You shouldn't have had to hear it this way."

Twilight nodded. She forced herself to all fours, leaning gratefully against Sure Stride's powerful shoulders. For a moment, with her eyes closed, she could almost believe he was her brother; but only for a moment. The smell was wrong.

The pair, Stride and the familiar unicorn, led her across the hall to the rear doors. They were the exit to the royal apartments, the private spaces to which only the Princesses, their closest friends and relations were allowed access. The corridor beyond was silent too, but a different sort of silence. The court had merely been empty. Here the silence was profound, complete. Nothing moved. All the servants were gone, sent away by the guard. Twilight's hooves padded against the soft carpets favoured by Celestia. Once favoured—no, it couldn't be true, could it? Her mentor, her friend, gone?

"When did it happen?"

Sure Stride glanced at the other unicorn again as if waiting for an objection. She didn't speak.

"We believe shortly after sunrise. The—the First Minister claimed to have witnessed the event. And other things," the Commander added, darkly. "Ever since then we've been trying to maintain secrecy while we prepare for the handover of power."

"There was a letter for you, Twilight," the other unicorn said. She levitated a scroll from some secret place and proffered it to the Archmage. Twilight's heart leapt to her throat when she noticed the royal seal. "I wasn't sure whether to keep it it for later or—I-I'm sorry, there's no good time for this."

"No kidding," Twilight muttered. She unrolled the scroll. It was from Celestia, but before she could begin to read it Twilight found her eyes filling with tears. "This can't be real..."

But it was real. The writing was recognisably Celestia's, though it was shaky and rushed. Fear or grief tinged her words. Twilight could see a few dried tear stains on the parchment and a blot of ink near the bottom.

Twilight, I do not have much time...

She rolled the parchment up and dropped it into a pocket in her robe. Later. When she'd had more time to absorb the magnitude of what she faced, when the reality had set in and she could accept what was written... whenever the insanity ended. She'd read it then. "Where are we going?"

"The Princess requires your presence."

"But—"

"This is not Celestia," Sure Stride said, choking over the familiar use of his once-ruler's name. "Before she disappeared she invested her successor. It was—she—"

"She picked my mother because there was nopony nearby she thought could fill the role," the other unicorn said. "She was supposed to pick you, but you weren't there."

"Your mother..." Twilight turned to the unicorn. They had almost reached Celestia's private chambers now, but Twilight stopped to better assess her accuser. Her face and cutie mark. "I do know you! Sparkler! But what are you doing here? You should be at the university—"

The realisation of who she was speaking to finally settled into Twilight's mind. Sparkler had spoken of her mother. Celestia had picked Sparkler's mother. That meant... meant...

Before Twilight could complete the thought, the wail of a distressed foal sprang from beyond the door of Celestia's private chambers. Without thought, Twilight ran to the door and burst it aside with a blast of magic. She stopped dead inside, the sudden realisation of what she'd done, the privacy she had breached, pouring through her mind.

A tiny unicorn filly cowered in one corner of the room, screeching at the top of her voice for her mother. On the other side a pale grey alicorn cowered, her bright golden mane billowing with each motion of her head, and her eyes closed tight against a world gone mad.

"I want my mommy!"

"I'm here, muffin," the alicorn whispered. "I'm here."

"NO!"

A pillow flew across the room, propelled by a bright magical aura and hit the poor alicorn in her face. She sagged under the blow, as if it had been stone. Her cheeks were matted wet with tears.

"I want mommy!"

"Please, I'm here! Please..."

Sparkler trotted over to the filly and picked her up, shushing all the while. She cast a sympathetic look to the alicorn and then one of pure, unbridled hatred at Twilight before departing to another room to calm her sister. The alicorn, this new Princess, seemed to collapse in on herself and began to weep.

Twilight retrieved the letter from her pocket and spread it out in the air. Sure Stride moved up beside her as she read, but she didn't care. He might as well know.

Twilight, I do not have much time left. Something has happened, I know not what, but we are lost. I cannot explain. Cadence has already gone, your brother with her, for which I am so very sorry. Others have begun to fade. Luna weakens even as I write this.

I had hoped you would be here. I hoped I could say goodbye, but I cannot. This letter must suffice.

You were to have been my heir, Twilight, had anything untoward happened. It is my eternal regret that you shall not be. I have had to choose on the hoof, and I pray to the powers that I have made the right choice, for none within the court had such peace and nobility as this one. None had such joy in life, or such generosity, or kindness. As reward for her innocence I have inflicted upon her the most terrible burden, without asking. Desperation drives my acts now, Twilight.

I face my destiny with hope. I shall see you again someday, but I know not when, nor can I explain how I know this.

Care for her. Help her. Teach her power over her sun!

My final pronouncements are on my desk. Please make sure they are read to the full court.

Forgive me, my dearest friend.

Celes