• 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 Night

The First Night

Bright sunlight streamed through the windows of the Royal Apartments, casting broad streaks of gold across the room and sharp, curled patterns of glowing ivory on the north wall and the heap of cushions that rested against it. The room, its previous owner long departed, felt cold and empty despite the warmth, and its new occupant could barely accept herself, let alone the place she was now expected to spend eternity.

Her nose was stuffy and raw; her throat felt as if it had swollen shut and set aflame all at once. She stared at the wall, golden eyes rimmed red and bloodshot from tears that had long since dried and refused to flow. There was nothing of comfort here, nothing that felt right or familiar, except for a small package on a table, wrapped in brown paper and tied with rough twine. So small and familiar a thing. The label it bore was mouth-written 'To the Princess', but the Princess was gone.

Wasn't she?

Someone had said she was the Princess now, which hadn't made any sense when she heard it. She'd sometimes dreamed of being some sort of princess when she was a filly but that was the dream of childhood, the fantasy that was never fulfilled and that could be put safely away in its little box when it was finished. But they'd called her De Raptura, they'd bowed and scraped and ushered her into this forsaken palace and the barren emptiness of this room, and then they'd left her alone.

By name she was Ditzy. Ditzy by nature some said, and others had nicknamed her Derpy so often that the name had sort of stuck, to the point that she even called herself that half the time. It didn't matter anyway, she knew who she was no matter what name others used. She'd always known who she was.

It had seemed like a dream. First she had been ushered into the presence of no less than Celestia herself, bearing the package that the law and her conscience required her to deliver. She'd seen that warm, sad smile and heard questions that didn't make sense and then... things got fuzzy. It had hurt. She'd felt something change in her very soul, a pain that had driven her to madness and joy that had been impossible to understand, and all the while the comforting words of the Princess in her ears, in her mind, as they took her apart and remade her.

And then they'd looked smaller and she'd been bigger and the stallion they'd had with them had been gibbering about something and fallen over, and Celestia had begged her forgiveness. Begged her, on her knees, tears pouring from her eyes like rain, because they had taken everything from her.

Forgiveness was a simple thing. To do anything but forgive would have been blasphemy, anathema. They had taken everything from her and given her everything in return and she had forgiven them, and loved them, knowing even then the burden they had placed upon her, yet not truly understanding what she would lose.

It had hurt to find out. Pain was something she had long been accustomed to. She'd always been accident-prone, and in her earlier life she'd taken the names others called her to heart, but all of that could not have begun to prepare her for what would come.

She had been open and weak and overwhelmed when her daughters had arrived. Her youngest had wailed in terror at the sight of her. Refused to accept her. To be rejected by her own child... Yet even as her soul had been ripped apart by Dinky's screams she had been proud of the growing strength of the youngster's magic, as her little muffin had thrown everything she could at her in a bid to escape.

Then she had been alone again, alone for many hours. She had cried herself to sleep, somehow cried in her sleep, and woke on tear-stained pillows in a room that was larger than her entire house. Her children were gone. Her little home, she could never return to it. Her family broken apart for the love of a princess who no longer existed.

Without them, who was she? Derpy... Ditzy... De Raptura. Princess. She hauled herself upright and sloped toward the table, head hung low, until she found the package right before her nose. To the Princess. She flapped her wings, trying to rid herself of the discomforting thought of who it was addressed to. No. She would not open it. It wasn't hers. It couldn't be hers.

A mirror on the far wall caught her eye as she turned back to the nest of cushions and she stopped, fascinated by her eyes. They were still the same. Of all the things that the Princess might have done she would have thought 'fixing' her eyes would be at the top of the list, but they were unchanged. She wasn't sure how to feel about that, yet the familiarity was the first real comfort she had found since she'd woken.

The heaped cushions that had been her impromptu bed suddenly held no appeal. She didn't want to sit and mope. She didn't want to sleep away the rest of her life in this barren, empty room. With a snort she turned from it all and stalked toward the enormous doors of her chamber, raising her head as she remembered the Princess once doing on a visit to Ponyville. She couldn't manage that ever-present smile but that didn't matter, for she had nothing to smile about.

The doors opened under the gentle pressure of her hooves and she stepped out into the broad reception beyond. An attendant leapt to his hooves at the sight of his Princess; the armour of the guards rattled as they came to attention. She looked about, all momentum lost in the face of so many servants, before her gaze finally settled on the hoofcolt. He bowed deeply.

"Your Highness?"

"F-fetch—fetch Twilight Sparkle. Please. I need to speak to her."

"At once, ma'am."

The young stallion bowed again and turned, his uniform flaring about his shoulders as he wheeled from the room at a brisk trot. Another hoofcolt stepped forward to take his place, bowing as he did so. She left him and retreated to the royal chambers without a word.

The door slammed. She leaned her side against it, swallowed, choked and then gasped for the breath she hadn't realised she was holding. After a few moments in which she could neither think nor act, she stepped away from the door and opened it just a crack, granting her a good view of one of the guards. A few moments passed. Her breath caught in her throat again as the guard rolled a quizzical eye toward her.

He winked. And then he looked away, resuming his duties as if nothing had happened. The door clicked shut once more. He didn't know it, but that guard had just saved her sanity for at least a few minutes.

In the short time she had left alone she strode the room, seking a suitable place to await Twilight. The desk was considered briefly and rejected. It wasn't hers, she had no reason to sit there. The cushions... were too informal. And she'd never thought the phrase 'too informal' would pass through her mind in any context. Maybe she was already starting to think like a princess?

While she was lost in thought, the window had pulled her toward it. She realised she found the view over the city calming, almost relieving; it could let her believe she was stood on the clouds, looking across the open sky, instead of trapped in the stone and glass cage of the palace.

The door opened without a knock and her hoofcolt entered, bowing deep.

"Twilight Sparkle, ma'am."

"Thank you," she said, without turning from the view. Hoofsteps echoed behind her and the door closed once again with a gentle thump. She let the silence draw out. What could she say?

"You wanted to see me, your Highness?"

The words felt like a knife in her side, a denial of everything she was and had been. She lowered her head and closed her eyes.

"Twilight, what's my name?"

"I... what?"

"My name," she said, turning to the Archmage. To her friend. To her filly's mentor. "Who am I?"

"Y-you're the Princess—"

Her eyes flew to the package, wrapped in its paper blanket, and her heart filled with yearning for that simpler time, just a day earlier. Just one day, that's all it had taken.

"You used to call me Derpy, Twilight."

"I-I-I'm sorry, Princess, I never meant to offend—"

"Stop, please." She closed her eyes and took a breath. "That's who I was. And I was Ditzy, and I was the mail mare and a weather pony, and I was a mother of two beautiful fillies. But who am I now?"

"Your Highness?"

"I'm lost." She turned back to the window and leaned forward until her horn touched the glass with a sparkling tink. Her jaw tightened at the alien pressure on her skull. The sting of tears returned to her eyes.

Twilight shuffled her hooves and her ears flopped back against her head, her discomfort obvious. She wanted to be anywhere but there, in her former mentor's rooms. Suddenly her ears popped forward. She took a step. "While... while I'm here, i-if... the Pr—Celestia asked me to teach you. Maybe that will help."

"Teach... like Dinky?"

"Y-yes! Like..." the Archmage swallowed and looked at her feet. They were both remembering events of just a few hours earlier. "Like that," she finished lamely.

"Where is she?"

"I had her and Sparkler moved to one of the guest suites. She's asleep by now."

A small relief. They were close, close enough, even if she couldn't go to them just yet. She felt an itch under her horn and frowned, trying to find a way to scratch it, but not knowing where to begin. Maybe Dinky had just needed time to get used to her? Maybe she was just scared by the new environment and missed her bedroom. Maybe a million other things, but the terror in her daughter's eyes... had she tears left they would have welled up afresh at the thought of those eyes.

"Your Highness, we also need to discuss your duties."

"Duties?"

Twilight gave the window a meaningful glance. The sun. She meant the sun... how could she control the sun?

"Did Princess Celestia—"

"No. And in all her writings I've studied she never mentioned it, except to say that it was unlike the unicorn methods. I'd hoped it was innate." Twilight pulled herself large cushion from the pile and primly settled upon it. When she looked up there was a tightness to her face that belied her calm demeanour.

Small details became apparent. Twilight's eyes were puffy and her lips were dry. Her mane was a mess, though it was obvious she'd tried to bring it under control, and there was a permanent, tiny twitch under her left eyelid. Without a second thought Derpy rose up, strode the short distance across the room, and drew Twilight into a deep hug.

"P-Princess—"

"Hush..." She began to rock back and forth. "It's okay, Twilight. I know this is hard for you too."

Tears glistened in Twilight's eyes, catching on her eyelashes in bright, sparkling drops as she screwed up her face against the vast pit of grief welling up within her. She wrapped her forelegs around the Princess' broad neck and buried her face in her mane.

"Why did she have to go?"

"I'm here, Twilight," she replied. She tightened her hug, nuzzling Twilight's neck as she had nuzzled Dinky's just a few days earlier. Twilight's sob pitched up into a quiet keening.

The door leaned ajar and the same guard she had seen earlier peered cautiously inside, a look of concern and curiosity on his face. He froze at the sight of the pair sprawled against one another and then his eyes went wide. She gave him a slight smile and shook her head just a fraction. Understanding dawned on the guard's face and he backed out of the room, bowing his head as he closed the door.

She wondered what rumours might be started from that single interaction... she often wondered about such things. For a while there had been a persistent belief that she was suffering a terminal brain cancer because of her eyes and a few more-than-usually accident-prone days, when the reality had been one of Dinky's teeth coming in. The resulting sleepless nights had left her more addled than even the weeks after Dinky was born, but she'd never resented the rumours. They showed that a lot of ponies cared about her in some way, even if they didn't express it directly.

Dinky... her youngest foal, her dearest treasure. She felt herself reaching out for the little spark of light that was her firstborn, instinctively seeking until she found... something.

"Dinky?"

Twilight stiffened beneath her forelegs. She slipped from the Archmage's grasp as the world slid and changed around her, until all that was left was a flowing, coiling morass of light and energy, alien and terrifying. A tiny coruscating knot came into her sight, glowing bright and golden. It seemed to react to her. It moved to her, familiar and inviting.

"Muffin!"

But something was wrong. She reached for the light but it recoiled from her, retreating into the endless glowing maze, its light fading until she was surrounded by nothing but endless, bitter-black threads. She thrust herself forward in a blind panic, searching for the light, searching for her guide for what seemed like an eternity, chasing the distant spark of thought and love and completeness that had rejected her so utterly.

Light began to grow again and her dancing firefly was lost within it. She sought the light, felt it guiding her and she clung to it, welcoming the love and warmth even as she realised it wasn't her light. Her light was gone, subsumed in the blazing stream of consciousness that enveloped her and drew her toward its heart. She flung herself at it and grasped it with all her might, drawing it down to herself, burying herself within its fire until she was completely and utterly and joyously lost.

* * *

Twilight recoiled as the Princess moaned her daughter's name over and over again. She was flat on her side and her eyes were closed, but the magic coursing through her body, leaking from her eyes like tears and wrapped around her horn, was as obvious as the sun in the sky. Twilight brushed her own power against the Princess, but felt herself repelled, almost physically flung away by sheer force of will.

The door crashed open. Sparkler, followed closely by one of the guards, threw herself against Twilight and screamed in her face. "What did you do?"

"What?"

"Your Ladyship," the guard began, but Sparkler cut him off with a wave of her hoof.

"Dinky's screaming her head off! She's terrified! What did you do to her? What did you do to my mom?"

"I didn't—"

The blow came without warning, not a gentle slap or the expression of mere annoyance but a full-bodied punch to her face. Twilight rocked back on her haunches and slid to the floor with the world buzzing around her. She tried to force Sparkler away with magic that wouldn't cooperate, but the mare was already gone anyway, dancing around her mother and shouting incoherently. Twilight rolled on her side and slipped gratefully into darkness.

... except she was still awake. She lifted her head and looked around. The Princess had stopped moaning and was lying very still, shivering on the floor, lit by the glow of a sputtering werelight Sparkler had thrown to the ceiling.

Beyond the windows the stars shone, bright and still, in a moonless sky.